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7.3.8 The relative frequency of decorated samian vessels at smaller civil centres

Data for some 15 groups from smaller civil centres are listed in Table 35 and these are supplemented by 5 listed in Table 37. The analysis presented in Table 42 suggests that the average proportion of decorated vessels in groups from these smaller centres is c. 17%, a figure less than half of the equivalent total in the case of extra-mural sites outside military installations and indeed the lowest average for all types of site by this measure. The medial percentage for the 15 groups is c. 14%. The range of percentages is 8-30% but four-fifths of the sample lie within the range 12-25%. The two groups with the lowest proportions of decorated ware are from Neatham and Heybridge, Elms Farm, at 8 and 10% respectively, though both are 3rd century and hence relate to a period when the supply of decorated vessels to Britain had, relative to plain types, dropped (cf. Section 7.3.4). It is a group from Catterick which is at variance with the general picture, with a 3rd century group from Bainesse registering 30% of decorated ware, the highest proportion among the whole sample of sites of this category. This reflects the unusually high proportions of decorated ware noted when the site was, essentially, an extra-mural settlement outside the fort (cf. Section 7.3.6). Overall there is a highly consistent pattern among the samples from these sites (cf. Table 42) which is independent of geography and chronology: proportions of decorated ware are markedly low when compared to the figures for military sites, vici/canabae and major civil centres.

At the 'Small Town' of Asthall, 1992, Area A, a comparatively high proportion for decorated vessels for a site of this type occurs in the case of South Gaulish ware, at 25% (Table 37). This may reflect the short-lived initial prominence of decorated samian at many sites in the countryside immediately following the Conquest (cf. Willis 1997a; 1998a). In contrast, the percentage of decorated vessels among the 2nd century samian from Central Gaul at this site drops to 15% (Table 37), consistent with the pattern apparent from Table 35. At Area B at Asthall the proportion of decorated Central Gaulish samian is particularly low (Table 37), probably because this is predominantly a later 2nd century assemblage (cf. Mills 1997a, 109-10), a period when decorated samian vessels become less common generally. This low proportion for decorated samian also fits with the apparent functional activities in the area, as revealed by the excavation, namely industrial activity and a likely workshop (Booth 1997).

The data collected in Table 37 also show a high percentage (42%) for decorated samian among the very small sample of South Gaulish ware from Hayton, Burnby Lane. This contrasts with the moderate figure of 24% for the adjacent contemporary fort (Table 35). Again this difference may reflect the short-lived prominence of decorated samian at rural sites immediately following the Conquest, not least in East Yorkshire (cf. Willis 1997a; 1998a). The percentages for decorated vessels at the Burnby Lane site in the case of (later) Central and East Gaulish samian remain comparatively high, which correlates with the structural evidence for a building complex of some pretension (Millett and Halkon forthcoming).

A further site registering a comparatively high percentage of decorated vessels is Whitchurch, Shropshire (Table 37), with a figure of 43% in the case of Central Gaulish samian. Again this high figure is consistent with the structural evidence, which demonstrated the existence of a substantial building during this period, perhaps a town house or mansio (Jones and Webster 1969).

Data relating to groups from Baldock, Hertfordshire, are not listed in Tables 35, 37 and 39. Five groups (Baldo1,2,3,4 and 5) arising from Ian Stead's excavations of 1970-1 are listed in the database. However, three of these groups are very small while the site as a whole has many evident structured deposits. Layers 7 and 8, for instance, in Pit A at the Upper Walls Common, Site A, yielded sherds from 22 samian vessels; the contexts are Claudio-Neronian, with two samian vessels decorated (9.1%); in total, however, the feature contained ten almost complete pottery vessels (Stead and Rigby 1986).

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