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9.5.5 Discussion

The samian form types present in graves reflect to a considerable degree the coarse ware types that commonly occur in graves. A common 'suite' of vessels might include a 'cinerary urn', typically a closed form, together with perhaps a flagon, an open form and a cup or beaker. Differing configurations occur for sure. The inclusion of samian forms appears to follow this 'norm'. Hence this survey has highlighted the inclusion of samian dishes and cups, plus, occasionally, a flagon or beaker. Conversely, bowls whether of coarse ware or fine ware are uncommon, as for instance at Great Dunmow (Going 1988, 22, fig. 19b). This pattern is seen too among the funerary pottery from the 2nd century cemetery at Skeleton Green (Partridge 1981) where all bowls, coarse or fine, are rare, and dishes are the most common samian form (Going 1988, 22, fig. 19a).

These 'suites of vessels' are conventionally taken to imply the provision of food and drink for the deceased on their journey to the underworld (or perhaps they may be a gift to 'The Ferryman'). However, we have learnt that burial evidence is complex and a domain in which we must avoid making assumptions, for instance, with regard to the potential functions of these forms and their purpose as grave goods.

Overall some clear trends emerge from this survey which raise questions regarding the 'motivation for vessel choice' (Biddulph 2002, 109). Open samian forms are fairly common within graves, independent of the type of site with which the cemetery is associated. Dishes and cups in samian were evidently preferentially selected. Savage, for instance, in discussing the pottery from Each End, Ash-next-Sandwich states, 'Although eight of the fourteen burials contain at least one dish as part of the pottery suite, they are all in samian ware [none are in the local BB2 fabric]' (Savage 1998, 135). Decorated bowls, despite being open forms and potentially of similar function to dishes and cups (since they could be used for serving or drinking) are essentially excluded from the repertoire: there are no Drag. 30s among the 207 samian vessels from graves documented in Table 69, and only one Drag. 29 and just two Drag. 37s; the virtual absence of decorated bowls is, thus, emphatic. Conversely, decorated bowls occur in structured deposits (Willis 1997a, 46-7, and Appendix 2; Bird 1992). Presumably, therefore, they were considered acceptable to present to the Gods/spirit world by these means.

Decorated samian beakers occur in graves, but are few in number and occur with the level of frequency with which they occur in settlement deposits and hence were not a 'preferred' grave inclusion. No samian mortaria occur either (though of course they make a late debut in the sequence of samian export, and so the chances of their appearing are accordingly lessened). On the whole the types of samian vessel present in graves not only exclude the bowls, but also tend not to be the larger samian vessels. Size appears to be a strong and constant factor in determining what went into a grave in terms of samian vessels (cf. below).

Certain samian forms are 'over-represented' in the samian in graves, that is they appear with a greater frequency within funerary samian than among settlement deposits.

Two such types are the Drag. 35 and Drag. 36 cup and dish which normally have barbotine trailing. In fact there are several cases of these forms occurring in pairs within graves (Appendix 9.1). A pair occurs within the cremation group from Springfield Road, Brighton, excavated in 1877 (Dudley 1981), and further 'pairs' are present in the St Pancras cemetery (Down 1971), four being of La Graufesenque vessels, with no other samian vessels occurring within these burials. Geoff Dannell (pers. comm.) has noted that there might be some connection between the fact that these two forms were often selected for inclusion within graves and the fact that they were not usually stamped with a maker's mark. The plain flanged bowl, Curle 11, often with barbotine trailing on the flange, is normally seen as relating to the Drag. 35 and 36 through its typological similarities. There are, however, no examples of Curle 11 forms among the 207 vessels from burials recorded in Appendix 9.1.

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