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7.3.2 Summary of the trends in the distribution of decorated samian vessels identified by Phase 1 of the project

Trends apparent from the analysis of this type of data during Phase 1 (cf. Willis 1998a) included the following:

Table 34 summarises the different proportions of decorated vessels present in site samian groups as identified from the sample collected during Phase 1 of this project. The table shows the averaged percentages for decorated samian vessels present within site samian groups by site type (cf. Willis 1998a, Table 3). (Some 41 site groups were listed in Table 3, 1998; five of these are excluded as they do not fall under the site type headings summarised here, while the sample from the broch at Fairy Knowe, Buchlyvie, Stirlingshire (Main 1998) is also not included because of the exceptional character of the sample.)

Site TypeNumber of Site/Phase Assemblage Groups in SamplePercentage of Samian that is Decorated(Averaged)
Military sites



Major civil sites



Small Towns, roadside settlements, etc.



Rural sites



Table 34: Averaged percentages of decorated vessels within site samian groups from different site types in Britain, 1st and 2nd centuries AD, based on the sample published in Table 3, 1998 (Willis 1998a)

(On basis of quantification by number of vessels)

That only ten samples appear in the table relating to smaller nucleated centres and rural sites emphasises the lack of detailed information on samian group composition available in the public domain at the time (c. 1997), away from the forts and major civil centres. A further constraint in the case of rural sites in particular is the size of the groups. In a series of published reports it was found that the samian group size was too small, failing to reach the threshold of c. 17-18 vessels necessary in order to ensure a valid picture. It should be noted that samian is a fairly infrequent find among normal site deposits at such sites (cf. Section 7.2.7), and hence the chances of excavated samples including sufficient numbers of items identifiable to form are that much less than is the case with military and major civil sites. Work for Phase 2 of this project has augmented the sample (cf. below), particularly as a result of (i) more information generally becoming available as post-PPG 16 projects have come through to publication, and (ii) pottery reports within these works have been much more comprehensive than in the past.

The discovery that the proportions of decorated samian within groups differ between different types of site correlates with the results of recent analyses looking at other types of material culture at sites of the Roman era. Work by Cool and Evans, for instance, has shown systematic variations in the nature of cultural assemblages from different types of site (e.g. Cool and Baxter 1999; Evans 2001). Evidence for this structuring in the distribution/consumption of material types is clearly a matter worth further investigation.

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