2. The Pottery

The imported pottery from the Mediterranean comprises two main categories: amphorae and Red Slip fineware. The amphorae are principally of east Mediterranean and, to a lesser extent North African types. Grouped as 'B wares' in earlier British publications they are now, more usefully, matched to amphora classifications established in the Mediterranean (Riley 1979; 1981; Campbell 2007, 4). Similarly the 'A wares' coined by Radford were matched to Mediterranean classes 'African Red Slip Ware' (ARS) and 'Phocaean Red Slip Ware' by Thomas' 1981 catalogue (Thomas 1981, 3). The latter class has occasionally returned to its earlier designation 'Late Roman C' (LRC) in more recent publications (such as Fernández 2014) following the recognition of parallel production at a variety of centres in the west of modern Turkey (Cau et al. 2011, 6).

The main types of amphorae identified in British contexts are Late Roman 1 (hereafter LRA1) and Late Roman 2 (LRA2), previously classified in Britain as 'Bii' and 'Bi' respectively (Thomas 1959) (Figure 3). The cylindrical amphora LRA1 was produced in the north-east Mediterranean, particularly in Cilicia (southern Turkey) and Cyprus . The globular LRA2 was produced in the Aegean, with production sites identified on Chios and Cnidos and in the Argolid region of Greece (University of Southampton 2005; digital archive). Both types were produced between the 4th and 7th centuries, but they are not thought to have been imported into Roman Britain and their identification on sites in western Britain is taken to indicate some connection to a separate import system commencing in the 5th century (Campbell 2007, 19).

Figure 3: Late Roman amphorae 1-7 (redrawn from Riley 1981, 117)

Other East Mediterranean amphorae LRA3 and LRA4 are less common at the post-Roman import sites, but have been identified in late Roman contexts in Britain (Campbell 2007, 19-20, 125-6). Amphorae of North African origin were imported into Roman Britain, particularly in the 3rd and 4th centuries (Williams and Carreras 1995, 234) but are also thought to be found in post-Roman assemblages – though in a smaller proportion to the east Mediterranean types. These later 'North African' imports have usually been grouped within a broad class 'Bv' in British publications, limiting comparison to continental or Mediterranean examples, but reflecting the difficulties in identifying published types based on fragmentary vessels (Campbell 2007,19). Similarly, recent continental reports commonly subdivide the east Mediterranean amphora types into more closely datable sub-types (see Pieri 2005). Such refinements may prove useful for future comparisons with the British pottery, but given the scarcity of large or diagnostic sherds on many of the British sites, such precision might not always be possible. The forms of amphora are long lasting and cannot usually be closely dated in themselves. Instead, the dates reflect production dates based on typologies established in the Mediterranean, particularly for the Red Slip finewares (Campbell 2007, 19).

Beyond amphorae, the presence of imported Mediterranean coarsewares in Britain has been debated following identifications at Tintagel (Batey et al. 1993, 55-9; Thorpe 2007, 233). Campbell suggested that only a very limited quantity of these sherds might represent imported coarsewares - the majority might instead be from amphorae, possibly of types previously unrecognised among the British assemblages (Campbell 2007, 24).

A secondary and subsequent phase of imported pottery from the Continent was later identified (Thomas 1959). 'E ware' is a coarse ware, possibly produced in western Gaul, which has a wide distribution in western Britain and Ireland (Campbell 2007, 46-7). The main period for its importation is thought to be the later 6th and 7th centuries, and as a result this ware is less relevant to this specific discussion (Campbell 2007, 46). Present only in very small numbers in insular contexts, a second ware, 'Dérivées Sigillées Paléochretiénnes' (DSP), is of more relevance as its importation is thought to overlap the main phases of Mediterranean and continental imports (Campbell 2007, 133). The 'Atlantic group' of DSP, typically non-oxidised and thought to represent imports to Britain (Campbell 2007, 27) is likely to have been produced in Bordeaux (Soulas 1996, 237).