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8.4.6 The relative frequency of mortaria amongst samian assemblages

Coarse ware mortaria were often widely traded and are a subject of special interest for the range of instructive data they can reveal. Given also that robust fragments tend to survive which are conducive to illustration, coarse ware mortaria are prominent in archaeological reports. They are, however, comparatively infrequent amongst site pottery assemblages, normally forming very modest percentages of recovered pottery (eg. Going 1987, Table 10; Rush 1997). This is also true of samian mortaria.

Considering the frequency of samian mortaria amongst samian groups and assemblages it would be preferable to have a larger sample available to study than that of Table 55 and Appendix 8.1. Nonetheless, it is apparent that the category typically forms small to moderate proportions amongst the many groups in which it is present. This picture would tend to imply that it became a standard element in the samian repertoire. After c. AD 160 it appears to be not an infrequent samian category. This may be set alongside the fact that, as noted, coarse ware mortaria were generally comparatively infrequent amongst pottery assemblages from western Europe, as might be expected of a specialized form.

The evidence suggests that samian mortaria become proportionally more frequent amongst samian groups into the third century, and that they were prominent amongst East Gaulish samian output. This is suggested by the information in Table 55 and, for instance, by the samian from the canabae at Caerleon (1984-90; cf. Appendix 8.1) where samian mortaria are the most common East Gaulish form at the Riding School Field site, mortaria comprising c. 20% of all East Gaulish samian vessels from the site. The samian from Heybridge, Elms Farm, (1993-5), from where a particularly large assemblage was recovered, supports this general observation. Mortaria account for c. 2.5% of the 2393 Lezoux samian vessels from this site, though this proportion is a diluted one since this includes all Lezoux vessels spanning the second century, rather than just those with which the mortaria are contemporary. Amongst the 478 East Gaulish samian vessels from the site 11.9% are mortaria (see Appendix 8.1). In the case of samian vessels from Trier kilns, mortaria comprise c. 28% of all samian vessels in that fabric from the site.

By contrast quantified data by EVE published by Monaghan relating to the samian from Wellington Row, within the colonia at York (Monaghan 1998, 948-9) present a different pattern. In this case the Central Gaulish samian includes an unusual group of unused samian mortaria that renders this group unsuitable for comparison (though one may note that samian mortaria account for 2-8% of all Central Gaulish samian in Period groups 2-4). Amongst the East Gaulish samian from this site, mortaria make up c. 4-5% of the totals within Periods 2-4 (Monaghan 1997, 948-9), that is less than in the case of Elms Farm. Clearly more dated samples are desirable in order to clarify any patterning.

8.4.7 The frequency of different samian mortaria types

Drag. 45 is the most frequently encountered samian mortarium type (cf. Hartley 1969b, 248). This is verified by Table 56 wherein examples of Drag. 45 total 134 amongst an aggregate of 230 mortaria. Of these examples of Drag. 45 the most common source is Central Gaul (Lezoux), though this outscores the East Gaulish mortaria only by a ratio of 4:3. At Heybridge, Elms Farm, there are more examples of Drag. 45 in East Gaulish fabrics than there are examples from Lezoux (c. 38:27 respectively).

In many instances amongst the sample collected in the course of this Project the specific form represented is not identifiable. It must be the case though that instances of Curle 21 are uncommon and examples of Drag. 43 even rarer; there are, for instance, no examples of the latter form, in any fabric, identified amongst the large samian assemblage from Heybridge, Elms Farm (cf. Appendix 8.1).

Samian mortaria occur in a range of East Gaulish fabrics (cf. Table 56). At Heybridge, Elms Farm, examples of mortaria in Rheinzabern and Trier fabrics are well represented (Appendix 8.1).

The small samian industry based at Colchester also made mortaria (cf. Tyers 1996, Fig. 101) albeit in modest number. An example of a Colchester Drag. 45 was recovered at Elms Farm (Appendix 8.1), along with another vessel that cannot be categorized more closely than 'gritted mortarium' (Dickinson forthcoming). These two mortaria occur amongst an aggregate of 92 Colchester vessels from this site.

8.4.8 Summary

The evidence assembled here seems to demonstrate the presence and use of samian mortaria throughout society, with no apparent cultural or economic restriction (bar, potentially, cost). As discussed the manner in which these vessels were used may have varied from site to site and from day to day. During the later Antonine period and earlier third century they were perhaps a widely familiar accoutrement of many lives in the province.

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