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6.6 Pithoi

A final set of distribution patterns can be seen in the find spots of the pithoi. Those made in the same fabric as Coarseware 1 are distributed evenly throughout the valley (Pithoi in Coarseware 1).

Distribution map of pithoi in Coarseware 1

Fig. 196. Distribution map of pithoi in Coarseware 1
© P Perkins 1997

Likewise those in pithos fabric 2

Distribution map of Pithos fabric 2

Fig 197. Distribution map of Pithos fabric 2
© P Perkins 1997

and Coarse Creamware 1.

Distribution map of pithoi in Coarse Creamware 1

Fig. 198. Dsitribution map of pithoi in Coarse Creamware 1
© P Perkins 1997

The distributions do not seem to be clustered around any particular point which might indicate a centre of production. Once again there was no direct evidence in the form of wasters or kiln remains to indicate a centre of production. However, sherds of pithos in Coarse Creamware 1 contained large numbers of inclusions of volcanic minerals. These inclusions, black augite and golden mica, are common in most of the Latial volcanic sequence, including Lago di Bolsena. There are three likely explanations for this phenomenon, either:

This observation provides evidence for the surprising, and novel, conclusion that either grits for making pithoi or everyday pithoi themselves were trundled around the Ager Coasnus and Albegna Valley on the back of carts. If this was the case it implies that the economy of southern and central Etruria was far more integrated than hitherto suspected. Alternatively a class of itinerant artisans producing mundane, but essential, articles such as these large storage jars is an equally unprecedented hypothesis. A similar phenomenon to this has been recorded in architectural terracottas excavated at Satricum in Latium where petrological work has established that the mineral inclusions in the terracottas originated in South Etruria, indicating transport of either raw materials or products (Kars et al. 1987). This conclusion is supported by studies of die-linking in fictile heads found at Falerii and Veii, or the Veii-Roma-Velletri group of architectural terracottas where pieces from the same mould have been found at different sites. In this case both transport of finished pieces and itinerant craftsmen have been suggested as possible explanations (Comella 1985, 89-90, with footnotes). It is easy enough to conceive of a group of artists or craftsmen moving from one temple construction site to the next with their equipment, but itinerant pithos makers are more difficult to imagine. Nevertheless making and firing pithoi could well have been a specialist activity because in the late Republican period at least they were proverbially difficult to make (White 1975, 145 quoting Zenobius Prov. 3.65).

The evidence of the distribution patterns of the pithos fabrics is equivocal: most are widely distributed throughout the survey area and do not seem to display any relationship to the city at Doganella.

Graph of the distribution of pithoi in Coarseware 1, pithos fabric 2, 3 and Coarse Creamware 1 and settlements against distance from the city

Fig. 199. Graph of the distribution of pithoi in Coarseware 1, Pithos fabric 2, 3 and Coarse Creamware 1 and settlements against distance from the city
© P Perkins 1997

This is what might be expected from the proposed model of itinerant pithos makers where the distribution is related to site locations rather than the location of the market or production centres. However, an exception to this pattern is pithos fabric 3 which has a peak in its distribution at 10-12km from Doganella around the minor centre at Ghiaccioforte.

Distribution map of Pithoi fabric 3

Fig. 200. Distribution map of Pithoi fabric 3
© P Perkins 1997

The same ware was found at Doganella where it was rarely used for basins and pithoi, but it was principally recorded as a tile fabric (Perkins and Walker 1990, 41, 48-9, Coarseware 5, tile fabric 2). This situation is not readily explicable: it may indicate redistribution of pithoi through Ghiaccioforte or production at Ghiaccioforte, but it could also be due to a casual similarity of fabric between the tiles and the pithoi. The other pithoi, made in Coarseware 1 and pithos fabrics 2 and 3, and containing local minerals and widely distributed, could have been produced at a large number of sites, or well marketed or produced by travelling craftsmen.

On the available evidence it is not possible to favour one explanation above another but in any case the observation of imported minerals indicates an unexpected complexity in the production and distribution of the pithoi. A final observation which can be made, but doesn´t provide a solution, is that the Etruscan traditions of pithos manufacture seem to have survived the Roman conquest of the Albegna Valley and Ager Cosanus because Etruscan type pithoi were found at a large number of sites which otherwise contained only Roman material (72 sites, 138 sherds).

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Last updated: Fri Nov 13 1998