[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

7.2.6 The frequency of samian at religious/ritual sites

Work following on from Phase 1 of this study did not identify any further suitable samples of the relative frequency of samian at religious/ritual sites additional to those located in Phase 1 (see Tables 21 and 22). These groups have been discussed elsewhere, together with related information (Willis 1998a). The evidence shows a low frequency of samian associated with temples and religious environments, indicating perhaps some level of use of the ware in and around such sites. Overall the level of use/consumption of samian ware is ostensibly similar to that at smaller centres and at rural sites.

7.2.7 The frequency of samian at rural sites (including villas)

There are 39 samples available for samian as a percentage by weight and 22 by EVE. By weight there is an emphatic pattern: samian forms only tiny proportions of pottery groups from rural sites. This is a constant pattern, independent of geography and across time (cf. Table 24). By EVE, the majority of the groups register less than 5% samian. In only six of the 39 samples by weight does samian account for more than 2% of the group, and in three of these six cases the percentages are under 3% (Birdlip Quarry, Phase 2B, Structure 1464, gully 1451, Chells, Boxfield Farm, Ceramic Period 2, and Weeting, Fengate Farm). Of the remaining three groups one is also from Birdlip Quarry, specifically Phase 2A, Structure 1463, gully 1450, where the percentage for samian is 5.7%, while another is from Thorpe Thewles, Phase 4, where the percentage is 8.8%. In the case of the latter site the 'high' proportion of samian probably arises from the incidence of a moderate amount of samian at a site in a region where there was a pattern of low absolute quantities of pottery being deposited at sites (and in this case the group is just 1.7kg in total). The general location of the site at Birdlip Quarry, by a main arterial road between major Roman centres and in a region with abundant Roman material culture means that there was no problem of access to samian here. Nonetheless, the inhabitants of the site still had to be inclined to acquire and use it. (In the published site report it is stated that, 'Samian pottery was common on the site' (Mudd et al. 1999, 235), which is largely borne out by the comparative analysis, and by EVE levels of around 10% (cf. Tables 27 and 28)). Of note, these higher proportions are often associated with (apparent) domestic buildings, often of vernacular circular tradition (e.g. at Birdlip Quarry and Thorpe Thewles). The building at Weeting was rectangular, and was thought to be a barn rather than a domestic structure (Gregory and Gurney 1996), though it had a range of aspects indicative of occupation.

Among the data by EVE, some of the highest percentages for samian are registered by sites associated with high status, for instance Bignor, Great Witcombe villa, the building at Stonepound Pit, Hassocks and Rivenhall (cf. Tables 27 and 28, plus references in Table 29).

The site group with the highest proportion of samian by weight and EVE is that from a well at Boxfield Farm, Chells (Ceramic Period 3, Well CAB, Middle Layers 6-13) of Antonine date (cf. Tables 23, 24, 27 and 28). In this group samian accounts for 11% of the pottery by weight, 19.5% by EVE. This group, however, is a structured deposit, or includes elements of such a deposit which included c. 26 complete, almost complete or semi-complete samian and non-samian vessels. The sample from Littlehampton, Belloc Road, Ditch G, is equally unusual, but what it represents is obscure. Samian amounts to 19% of this pottery group by EVE (percentage by weight is not recorded). Lyne says that, 'The fine and specialised wares, ...make up an unusually high 54.8% of all the pottery, ...' (1993, 17). The explanation for these high proportions at Belloc Road is unclear; it is unfortunate that more could not be revealed of this site.

Clearly context is also significant. For rural sites, the type of feature/context the sample is from may affect its composition. Under the category 'Rural sites', there are samples both from in and around domestic buildings and from fields, perhaps some distance from domestic environments (Mudd et al. 1999, 234-5). In such cases location may be important in terms of the amount of samian likely to be in use in particular milieux and potentially entering the archaeological record. In other words, it is important to establish whether samples are from 'rural occupation' or 'rural landscape' features.

The consistent low frequency of samian as a site find at rural sites contrasts with the fact that samian was selected for burials and ritual 'offerings' in the rural environment (see below, 7.2.8). It should not be overlooked that samian, while present in meagre proportions, is nonetheless virtually universally present at rural sites. Evidently there was no social or cultural constraint on its acquisition by rural populations; it was, seemingly, a not uncommon sight at sites in the countryside.

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Home]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue17/1/7.2.6_7.html
Last updated: Mon Mar 7 2005