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7.3.6 The relative frequency of decorated samian vessels at extra-mural settlements at military sites

The sample of 15 groups from extra-mural settlements in Table 35 suggests that the average proportion of decorated vessels present among groups from such sites is c. 35% (Table 42). The medial percentage is 37%. The range of percentages is wide, but nine of the groups have percentages in the range of 32-46%. On the whole, therefore, the data verify that decorated forms are more frequent from settlements outside forts than (i) from within forts or (ii) from other centres of occupation, whether large or small (cf. Table 35). There are just four groups with percentages below 30%, and in each case this is, indeed, below 20%. One is Sheepen, Colchester, in period 3, discussed above (Section 7.3.4). Two of the four groups came from successive phases at the Explosion site, Alcester, where the specific function of the area may be a factor (cf. Table 35). This site lies to the north of the putative fort (e.g. Booth and Evans 2001, 301) and the occupation at this location is presumed to be civilian, associated with what is believed to be a rectilinear building (cf. Booth and Evans 2001, 294). The other is the 'late' group from Brancaster (also discussed above).

The groups from Melandra and Chester, Castle Street, have comparatively high proportions of decorated samian. The latter is associated with a substantial building, perhaps a mansio, where decorated samian is likely to have been in frequent use; the group, though, comes from a well so the question arises whether these finds are part of 'normal rubbish' or if they have a 'special deposit' dimension. The group from Melandra vicus, Derbyshire, might also derive from a mansio, though again there is a 'watery' dimension as the group is associated with a stream. Both these groups have been discussed previously (Willis 1998a); it is not necessarily the case that the composition of either was influenced by symbolic or ritual practice.

The proportions of decorated samian among the three groups from Blackfriars Street, Carlisle, are high (Table 35). There are two groups from Period 3 (Late Flavian/Trajanic) at the site, associated with buildings which are thought to have been domestic, with at least one having glazed windows (McCarthy 1990, 365); both fronted onto the main Roman street south of the fort. In addition to high levels of decorated samian, they produced an exceptional assemblage of at least nine glass vessels, including fine tablewares. It would seem that the high levels of decorated samian are consistent with other indicators suggesting occupation by an individual or several persons of some standing at this time. During Period 8 (Antonine) there is again a very high percentage of decorated samian present (Table 35). During this period the building represented included a probable craft workshop, shop and domestic quarters (McCarthy 1990, 370). Fifty-two fragments of vessel glass were recovered from deposits of this phase (a high proportion), while the building appears to have had glazed windows during this phase too. Again, the proportion of samian formed by decorated vessels is high (52%), so a coherent picture of occupation with some pretension emerges. Among the Antonine and 3rd century samian recovered from the vicus at Stanwix, near Carlisle, in 1986 (the Miles MacInnes Hall site) the proportion of decorated vessels is also high at 42.5%.

7.3.7 The relative frequency of decorated samian vessels at major civil centres

Data for 28 groups from major civil centres are listed in Table 35. The averaged proportion of decorated vessels present among groups from these sites is c. 26% (Table 42) and the medial percentage is 25%. Seventeen of the groups have proportions of decorated samian of between 21% and 29%. Comparison with the settlements outside military establishments is of note, for whereas only a quarter of extra-mural settlements examined here have percentages for decorated ware below 30%, over three-quarters of the samples from major civil centres have percentages of decorated ware below 30%, a striking difference. Again there are several groups with quite low percentages. The lowest, at c. 11%, is associated with a Flavian building at 106-114 Borough High Street, Southwark; why the proportion in this case is so low is not clear, although the sample size is low (19 vessels).

While all these various major civil sites are combined for this analysis, it should be recalled that each had its own identity, origins, configuration of functions and perhaps distinctive population. These sites will have had differing legal status too. Whether these gradations might be seen in the composition of samian assemblages between these major sites is unlikely, given other causes of variation.

A Claudian group from Insula XVII at Verulamium (Frere 1983, 37-41, 102-5, 112-14; see 'Verul4') is not included in Table 35. This group includes c. 133 samian vessels, only 12.8% of which are decorated types. It is uncertain whether the horizon from which this group comes is military or civil. The low value for decorated forms is consistent with the trend noted above (Section 7.3.4) for low proportions of decorated samian in mid 1st century groups owing to the lower output of such forms at this time.

One group among the 28 listed within Table 35 has an exceptionally high proportion of samian, namely a Neronian-early Flavian group from Insula XIV (period IIa) at Verulamium. This group comes from a pit-like feature (Pit 7) which 'may have been intended as a well' (Frere 1972, 23; see 'Verul1'). Within the fill of this feature were represented 84 samian vessels. The proportion of decorated samian vessels present is 57%. This group is hence an oddity and it may be that this feature had a votive function, being perhaps a ritual shaft, like some other features of this character and date in the Hertfordshire/Catuvellaunian region. Precisely what other material came from this feature is not fully stated in the report, but among the published coarse pottery is an ensemble of flagons from this feature, including a complete flagon with, strangely, multiple piercings (Frere 1972, fig. 102, no. 109).

Two sites from Dorchester included in the survey have comparatively high proportions of decorated vessels present. One is the Dorchester Prison site, 1975 and 1978, with 44%. The other is the County Hall site (Table 37) which has percentages for decorated ware between 33 and 35%. Why these values should be so high in the case of Dorchester is not clear.

Two groups from Canterbury have under 10% of decorated samian (Table 35). One is Claudio-Neronian from the Rosemary Lane Car Park site, the other is Flavian/early Trajanic from the Marlowe Car Park. This is doubtless not representative of Canterbury as a whole, rather the explanation for such low proportions probably relates to their location at the periphery of Canterbury at this time where the evidence indicates agricultural activity, and, perhaps, lower status occupation (cf. Blockley et al. 1995).

The groups from North Hill, Colchester (1965), and Insula XVII at Verulamium relating to an early Neronian building might be seen as special cases since they relate to the Boudiccan 'destruction' of those towns and are not 'normal rubbish' deposits (cf. Millett 1987b).

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