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6.6.6 Summary and discussion

Montans samian occurs widely across Roman Britain. It has been documented from 56 separate sites in the course of this project, with a number of these sites producing examples from various locations and excavations. It seems likely that most large assemblages of samian from sites in Britain (independent of their location or type) are likely to include Montans items (cf. 6.6.3). The list of examples of Montans ware in Britain presented in Appendix 6.8 and Table 12 must represent only a proportion of finds of this ware in Britain, as it is likely that the ware may not invariably have been recognised and reported (cf. 6.6.4). Despite this wide distribution, Montans samian is a comparatively infrequent find. This pattern of small numbers of vessels widely dispersed might arise from a combination of intermittent consignments and a 'trading on' of vessels in small numbers.

The evidence points to the trade of this ware to Britain, especially in the late Trajanic to early Antonine period, when the work of several Montans workshops must have arrived in some quantity. This period is one in which the supply of samian to Britain was not as great as it had been during the Flavian period, or was to become in the Antonine years. Demand for samian might have led to this particular episode of trade from Montans at this time. Dickinson notes that the modest number of Montans samian vessels from Ribchester must represent organised trade rather than a diffusion of vessels by other means (e.g. via troop movements). Similarly a group of nine Montans vessels, with stamps of Felicio iii and Q.V.C., recovered apparently unused and burnt from St Catherine Coleman, London, in 1926, have been interpreted as potentially coming from a shop, destroyed in the second ('Hadrianic') fire (Dickinson and Hartley 1971, 141; cf. Marsh 1981, 201). While there are other possibilities, this interpretation is sound in principle and, if correct, points to the retail of bulk supplies. Dickinson (1999a, 84) has also suggested that London may have been a redistribution centre for Montans samian entering Britain. This is entirely possible, and it is likely too that samian from other sources passed into Britain through London (cf. Symonds 2000). Certainly there are seven or more sites in the areas north and north-east of London, which may have received Montans samian via London (e.g. Chells (Dickinson 1999a, 84), Verulamium, and Great Chesterford).

The most striking aspect of the distribution is the wide occurrence of the ware at sites along the Antonine Wall and in its hinterland (Appendix 6.8). The list of occurrences is almost a roll call of the main installations of the frontier at this time (Hartley 1972b). This incidence, plus the fact that as much as 10% of the samian vessels being used on these sites were from Montans (as at Strageath), indicate an exceptional supply to the frontier. Conceivably this was to order, in terms of a contract issued by the army, or the initiative of an enterprising negotiator. The absolute quantity of Montans samian supplied to Antonine Scotland must have been fairly sizeable, but may have been a consignment of (just) several hundred vessels; the equivalent of under one boat load. Its distribution raises interesting questions regarding the nature of the supply of samian to the military generally at this time. It seems likely that there was one pool from which the vessels were dispersed in Antonine Scotland, and it appears that in this case supply arrangements were not organised by individual units. Distribution may have been organised by the military in a centralised way, or soldiers might have made their own purchase requests from a supply centre; alternatively a travelling civilian retailer may have moved between sites. The presence of several Montans samian vessels at Newstead, on the eastern extreme of the distribution might relate to these distribution scenarios, or it may be that the vessels arrived with units redeployed from military sites on the frontier to the north. Overall, this concentration of Montans samian on the frontier in Antonine Scotland is consistent with Evans' postulation of separate military supply zones in Roman Britain (Evans in preparation). This episode of supply to Roman Scotland around c. AD 140 lies at the end of the sequence of Montans ware in Britain.

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