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8.4 Samian mortaria

8.4.1 Introduction

Mortaria is the name applied generally to ceramic bowls that are normally thick-walled, with a flange and interiors with (usually) applied coarse grits. These bowls can be comparatively deep. Vestigial spouts are often present. Interior grits are seen as aiding trituration. Typically, coarse ware mortaria appear in fabrics that are white or cream, or if the clay fires to a different colour they tend to have a white or cream slip. This shows adherence to a convention linking colour to form/functional category, which is a phenomenon seen with other pottery form classes in the Roman West.

Samian mortaria are a distinctive generic category, widely occurring in Britain. Their attributes set them apart from other mortaria; for instance, they are generally smaller than contemporary coarse ware mortaria, and they are red and resemble other samian vessels at a number of levels. As with samian inkwells, they have been thought to have an evidently close form-function association. The question of their function, though, is a matter for investigation rather than assumption and this is considered below. Examination of their incidence in Britain from a number of angles sheds light on the archaeology and cultural significance of this category.

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Last updated: Mon Mar 7 2005