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5.8.5 Lezoux samian in the third century?

The later chronology of the Lezoux industry has been an area of some debate. By convention the Central Gaulish industry is believed to have ceased exports in any quantity around c. AD 200 (Stanfield and Simpson 1958, xl-xlii; 1990; Webster 1996). King, however, in developing doctoral research has suggested a chronology for the latest Central Gaulish samian from Lezoux that extends into the 3rd century (1981; 1984; 1991; cf. King and Millett 1993). He has not published the methodology and reasoning in full (King 1985), but the essence of his argument is to suggest that Lezoux was still exporting samian until c. AD 230. King's thesis is based upon the incidence of amounts of Antonine samian, especially products of the Cinnamus ii factory, among deposits that date to the first half of the 3rd century. Hence, in King's alternative scheme, the date-ranges of work ascribed to major samian potters/workshops would continue well beyond their normal assigned date-range and be considered 'current' into the 3rd century. Products of the prolific Cinnamus ii workshop, for example, are most frequently found in deposits dating to the mid 2nd century, c. AD 135-175 (Hartley 1972b, 49-50; Stanfield and Simpson 1990, 303-10). By King's argument the workshop, or its moulds, will have had to be in use for decades beyond the normally ascribed date for this manufactory. This is a radical thesis, for it contests the established conventions. King's argument has not been supported by other samian specialists, indeed it has been refuted (e.g. Bird 1986a; 1993, note 1; Ward 1993, 17). The reuse of old samian moulds could be one means by which the currency of specific types or workshops might be extended. Old moulds were reused in the workshops at Rheinzabern and Trier in East Gaul, but there is no evidence this was the case with Lezoux (cf. Bird 1986a, 146). Similarly, there is little in the way of typological or stylistic development to suggest long-lived workshops. Indeed, firm evidence supporting King's interpretation is elusive (e.g. Ward 1993, 17). The present study has not uncovered any evidence to the effect that Lezoux samian was exported to Britain after c. AD 200. King's argument was beneficial in so far as it posed questions about the dating of samian, which in turn has led to scrutiny of how dates for samian are arrived at.

Broadly, King's thesis relates to the fact that samian from Central Gaul, conventionally of 2nd century date, appears to turn up rather too regularly in 3rd century deposits to be explained as a normal 'tail' of old vessels passing out of use (cf. Millett 1987a). However, we can now see that samian was not treated in the same manner as other pottery types in the Roman era, and indeed that we might anticipate the curation of vessels over long periods (cf. Section 5.8.1; King 1984, 56). This seems undoubtedly to have been the case with Lezoux vessels in the 3rd century AD (e.g. Ward 1993, 18). Excavated deposits of the 3rd century are likely to include both residual Lezoux samian and discarded items from long curated pots, reflecting the situation with La Graufesenque samian in the first half of the 2nd century (cf. above).

A further factor complicating questions of ceramic chronology in the 3rd century is the lack of typological change often encountered with pottery from deposits of the period. This has been alluded to by Cooper in the case of Cirencester, and it is a situation that he links with Going's thesis of 'economic cycles'. In considering pottery supply/consumption in the city, Cooper notes that in 'Ceramic Phase 5' of c. AD 200-250: 'The recognition of groups truly representing supply at this time is problematic, and this is particularly well demonstrated by the fine ware component, which is largely unchanged from CP 4. ... This situation tends to find agreement with Going's (1992a, 99) idea of a lag phase in the first half of the 3rd century (second half of his second cycle)' (Cooper 1998, 334). In terms of this perspective, the first half of the 3rd century was a ceramically undynamic period. A potential scenario, therefore, for a group of the first half of the 3rd century might be that it comprised types closely similar to those of the late 2nd century, and included 'old' Lezoux samian probably made in the 2nd century but only gradually entering the archaeological record in the 3rd century.

Questions of samian chronology in the 3rd century remain an area for further research (cf. Delage and Guiller 1997). This is a domain in which it would be unwise to adopt a position that was not open to new perspectives.

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