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6.4 Early Lezoux samian ware in Britain

6.4.1 Introduction

Production of samian ware at Lezoux in Central Gaul commenced in the Augustan-Tiberian era. From about c. AD 120 large quantities of the output of Lezoux were exported to Britain, and this source, as is well known, dominates samian assemblages of the 2nd century in Britain. As was established in two landmark publications (Boon 1967; Dannell 1971), modest amounts of Lezoux samian reached Britain before c. AD 120. Lezoux ware of this date is often, though not always, distinguished by a micaceous rather yellow fabric and an orange slip, rendering it quite different from other contemporary samian fabrics (cf. Tomber and Dore 1998, 31-2; Tyers 1996, 113). The incidence of early Lezoux ware in Britain is recorded in Appendix 6.5. From this listing it is clear that the ware is widespread in the province, being recorded in the course of the project from around 40 separate sites. Like Montans samian ware, it is far from being a frequent site find, but, as with that ware, the study of its distribution contributes to our understanding of the dynamics of supply and consumption during the (early) Roman era in Britain. Aspects of the distribution are discussed below.

6.4.2 The chronology of early Lezoux samian ware in Britain

The date of the first arrivals of this ware in Britain is a question of no little interest. Boon reasoned that, 'if the Gallo-Belgic industry producing terra rubra and nigra, etc., could export its wares to Britain before the Conquest, there seems to be no obvious reason why an early Lezoux industry should not have done the same' (1967, 30). We now know that a series of fine wares manufactured in Central Gaul in the Augustan-Tiberian period reached late Iron Age Britain (Rigby and Freestone 1986); early Lezoux samian was typologically and perhaps culturally distinct from these wares, but their appearance in Britain strengthens the likelihood of other products of this region reaching pre-Conquest Britain. Silchester, in fact, has produced a number of vessels from this source which are evidently pre-Conquest. The possibility of pre c. AD 43 arrivals in Britain is further strengthened when one considers the sizeable amount of early Lezoux samian from Fishbourne from both previous work (e.g. Dannell 1971) and from the recent excavations (John Manley, pers. comm.). Finds of early Lezoux samian from the 1961-9 work at Fishbourne include items associated with Period 1 (Dannell 1971, 266), which may begin before AD 43. Vessels likely to be of Claudian date occur at other sites, such as Sea Mills and Middle Duntisbourne on Ermin Street (cf. Appendix 6.5).

Hartley and Dickinson have suggested that this ware was mainly exported to Britain, albeit in modest quantity, during the Neronian to early Flavian era (Hartley 1972a, 243; 1975, 232; Dickinson 1992b, 154). Considering the known incidence of the ware in the early 1970s Hartley noted that, 'It occurs in Wales, but not on the northern military sites' (1972a, 243; cf. 1975, 232). This apparent absence from the northern frontier suggested to him that arrivals of the ware after c. AD 75 were unlikely or rare. Similarly, Boon had noted an apparent absence of the ware from military sites in Wales of Flavian date. He suggested that, 'we may therefore conclude that the early industry of Lezoux was declining to extinction in the decade AD 70-80' (1967, 31), but added the proviso that, 'such a view may be too simple: the Welsh sites concerned are military, and the army may have had commercial arrangements with South Gaul at the expense of Central Gaul' (1967, 31).

In subsequent years, however, finds of the ware have been identified by Hartley, Dickinson and others, coming from Flavian-Trajanic horizons at sites in the English midlands and on the northern frontier and its hinterland (Appendix 6.5). Flavian military establishments in Scotland have examples of the ware, as does the broch at Buchlyvie (Appendix 6.5). The collective evidence now indicates that the ware continued to arrive in Britain after c. AD 75. Where present the quantities of the ware can vary, suggesting some differential distribution. At some of these sites there may be only one or two examples of this date present in samian samples (cf. Dickinson 1992b, 154). At others the ware is much more frequent as, for instance, at Rocester, Staffordshire (e.g. Dickinson 1996a; Willis 2000b) and Strageath, Perthshire (Hartley 1989, 218). Finds of the ware likely to be essentially of Trajanic date occur at sites in northern Britain, for instance, at Birdoswald, and at Caerleon (cf. Appendix 6.5).

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