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6.6 Montans samian ware in Britain

6.6.1 Introduction

Samian ware manufactured at Montans on the Tarn in southern Gaul occurs widely in Roman Britain (cf. Appendix 6.8). Where present at sites it forms only very small fractions of samian assemblages. Nonetheless, the aggregate supply to Britain was evidently sizeable, and the nature of the distribution of the ware across the province sheds significant light upon the organization of trade in samian to Britain. This section brings together new evidence relating to the incidence of the ware in a synthesis and discussion.

Production began at Montans during the Augustan era. Vessels in Britain span the period c. AD 30-150. A few sites have pre-Flavian vessels from this source, especially London. Marsh thought examples of the ware in London were mainly Flavian-Trajanic (1981, 200-1) but this is not sustained by the latest collective evidence (cf. Table 12). The great majority of Montans vessels now recorded in the province as a whole date to the late Trajanic-early Antonine era (approximately AD 110/115-145). These include both plain and decorated forms, associated especially with the producers Attillus, Chresimus, Felicio iii, Malcio and Q. V. C. The evidence demonstrates that this must represent the main floruit of supply to Britain. Production at Montans ended in the mid second century (cf. Simpson 1976, 269-72).

The Montans industry was dominant in supplying samian to its immediate region (Aquitaine) and north-eastern Iberia (eg. Vernou et al. 1991; Martin 1997; cf. Marsh 1981, 200). The quality of output and the typology of the industry was broadly equivalent to that at both La Graufesenque and Lezoux with which it was contemporary (Simpson 1976; Bémont and Jacob 1986, 58-71). Hence it is of particular interest that these latter two suppliers grow to dominate samian supply to Britain and north Gaul, while Montans did not. Britain was on the margins of the distribution of Montans ware (Tyers 1996, Fig. 98). Its wide occurrence in Britain, plus the fact that the total number of vessels to reach Britain must be high, is testimony to the archaeological significance of the ware, if not to the scale of the industry. This not withstanding, La Graufesenque and Lezoux flourished as larger manufacturers and exporters, perhaps due to some geographical advantages, successful organization of supply logistics and because they presumably attracted larger numbers of producers. The fabric of Montans ware is detailed by Tomber and Dore (1998, 29) and Tyers (1996, 112-3).

6.6.2 The chronology of Montans ware in Britain

Typologically the earliest imports in Britain, as listed in Appendix 6.8 and Table 12, appear to be the examples of Loeschcke cup forms 7 and 8 from Silchester. This is a site, of course, with many early imports, with these Montans items being, potentially pre-AD 43 arrivals in Britain. These finds are an exception; otherwise there are few pre-Flavian Montans vessels documented from Britain. Two vessels from Exeter stamped by Iullus ii date to the period c. AD 40-70, during the military phase at this site (Appendix 6.8). There are a number of finds from other sites with date ranges spanning the mid and later first century which might be pre-Flavian, but not necessarily so. Only two other sites appearing in the lists (cf. Appendix 6.8; Table 12) also have pre-Flavian Montans samian. One is London, where several items come from pre-Boudiccan contexts (eg. Davies et al. 1994, 172). The other site is the Late Iron Age complex at Stanwick, North Yorkshire, which has produced a remarkable collection of Neronian samian (Wheeler 1954; Haselgrove et al. in press); amongst this material is a sherd from a platter from Montans. In terms of chronology it is also noteworthy that there are no examples of standard Drag. 29 decorated bowls recorded in Appendix 6.8; doubtless some will have arrived in Britain, and examples in London would not be surprising; their absence from the list emphasises that Montans ware, though appearing in Britain in the first century is an infrequent find. Two variants of Drag. 29, themselves uncommon, are noted by Simpson (1976) who provisionally dated them to c AD 80-120; both come from London (Appendix 6.8). Other first century examples occur at Verulamium and Rocester. Dannell reports four decorated Montans bowls (of Drag. 30 and 37) from various sites in Colchester, attributing them a late Flavian-Trajanic date, though there is some uncertainty (1999a).

The great majority of vessels in Britain were evidently second century imports. Of the c. 149 vessels listed in Table 12, 68.5% (102) are wholly second century, and only 12.7% (19) first century (with 10.1% (15) having no date specified in the sources, and 8.7% (13) attributed a date overlapping the first and second centuries). None of the vessels recorded here are necessarily later than c. AD 150.

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