4. Imported Pottery on the Atlantic Seaboard

Dominique Pieri's study of the Byzantine east Mediterranean wine trade compiled published and unpublished data on imported East Mediterranean amphorae in France of 5th- to 7th-century date, although he noted that his conclusions necessarily focused on sites in the south, given the rarity of examples and generally poorer data in northern regions (Pieri 2005, 2). The number of vessels recorded from sites on the western seaboard was relatively small in comparison with the large quantities of imported amphorae recorded in the south-east, especially at Marseille (Pieri 2005, 7). Nevertheless, isolated finds of late Roman amphorae at sites in western France were noted, including the fragment of LRA1 from l'Île Lavret, Bréhat, in Brittany (as previously mentioned by Fulford) (Pieri 2005, 50). Within the Pays de la Loire a sherd of LRA1 was also identified at Vaas close to the sanctuary at Aubigné-Racan as well as a sherd of LRA2 at Nantes (Pieri 2005, 49-53).

Larger quantities of late Roman amphorae have been identified further to the south, in the region surrounding Bordeaux. Amiel and Berthault's study of late imported amphorae in south-west France discussed the types and relative proportions of North African, East Mediterranean and Spanish amphorae found in the region between the 3rd and 6th centuries, drawing specific distinctions between pottery supplied to the main urban centres at Bordeaux and Toulouse (Amiel and Berthault 1996). Small quantities of late amphorae were documented at a number of villa and rural sites in the south-west, principally African amphorae and LRA4, but the authors noted that beyond the 5th century, imports were, on the whole, only recovered at the larger urban sites (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 257). Relatively small amounts of 3rd-century imported amphorae were identified both at Bordeaux and Toulouse, but from the 4th century there seems to have been a considerable increase of Spanish and North African imports, with a higher proportion of Spanish vessels at Toulouse, and North African amphorae at Bordeaux (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 256). East Mediterranean amphorae appear at both cities from the 5th century (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 256), linked to a general expansion of east Mediterranean wares (Reynolds 2010, 105) and paralleling their 5th-century distribution in western Britain.

The 6th-century data from Toulouse were limited, but the authors were able to conclude that the two urban centres were tied into different systems of supply. The continuing importation of considerable quantities of Spanish amphorae to Toulouse in the 5th century was in contrast to their infrequency at Bordeaux, where North African vessels were more common and where, by the 6th century, east Mediterranean imports came to dominate (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 256). Observations of proportional differences in the origin of imported amphorae were used to indicate that both cities were ultimately supplied by seaborne commercial routes crossing the Straits of Gibraltar; one route from Lusitania supplying Toulouse via Narbonne, with another, separate channel, conveying North African and eastern products to Bordeaux (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 262; Berthault 1999, 284). Bordeaux, by this date, would appear not to have been supplied overland via Toulouse but instead by an Atlantic route, which, Berthault argues, ties the settlement to systems reaching the British Isles (Berthault 1999, 153; 2012, 317). These observations refute the model of supply to Britain via overland routes from southern France, as suggested by Bowman (1996, 102).

The ceramic imports to Bordeaux, which seem likely to increase as further excavations are published, demonstrate the significance of this site within exchange systems operating on the Atlantic façade between the 4th and 6th centuries. Reynolds suggests that Bordeaux may, in fact, have been operating as an entrepôt on the Atlantic route supplying post-Roman Britain (Reynolds 2010, 109). Nevertheless, the specific forms of pottery imported to Bordeaux must be considered against the British material before a closer connection can be established. Pieri's catalogue notes three sites in Bordeaux with late Roman Mediterranean imports. The excavations at Saint-Christoly have not been fully published but produced North African amphorae and LRA4 from 5th-century deposits (Berthault 2012, 311; Pieri 2005, 50). The excavations of the necropolis beneath the basilica at Saint-Seurin again produced North African amphorae and LRA4, here reused for infant inhumations (Pieri 2005, 50; Watier 1973). The recent full publication of the excavations at Place Camille-Jullian, Bordeaux, presented additional data of relevance to the British imports and contrasting evidence for potential connections between the city and sites in western Britain (Maurin 2012). The particular importance of this excavation is that it revealed a continuous stratigraphic sequence between the 1st and 15th centuries and has the potential to provide information on the very latest Mediterranean imports to Bordeaux (Amiel and Berthault 1996, 255). In addition, the site produced the first Byzantine coins identified from Bordeaux of 6th- and 7th-century date (Bost 2012, 397-8).

Place Camille-Jullian produced significant quantities of late Roman imported pottery, specifically ARS and LRC (Bonifay 2012) and amphorae of Spanish, North African and east Mediterranean origin (Berthault 2012). The amphora assemblage demonstrates parallels with the post-Roman imports in Britain, comprising largely of North African and East Mediterranean amphorae, although there is a higher proportion of the former in the 5th century and the latter in the 6th (Berthault 2012). The 5th-century examples were also reported to include four amphorae of Lusitanian origin; one Almagro 51C and three Almagro 51B amphorae (Berthault 2012, 315). Iberian amphorae have not generally been seen as part of the 'package' reaching post-Roman Britain, although amphorae of southern Spanish and possibly Portuguese origin may have been identified at Tintagel (Reynolds 2010, 108, 292-3).

Again, Berthault proposes that the East Mediterranean amphorae arrived at Bordeaux via the same Atlantic channels supplying Britain, and, citing Fulford's model, interprets these as representing direct shipments from the Byzantine world via Atlantic channels (Berthault 2012, 317). However, some differences with the established pattern of post-Roman imported amphorae in Britain must be noted. The excavations produced six vessels of LRA1, two LRA2 and one LRA3, but also a total of twelve LRA4 (Berthault 2012, 314-16). The latter type, as mentioned, has only been identified in small numbers as a post-Roman import in Britain (Campbell 2007, 22). In contrast, Place Camille-Jullian was the first site in Bordeaux to reveal East Mediterranean amphorae of types other than LRA4 (Berthault 2012, 317). Pieri notes that away from south-east France only LRA1 and LRA4 are well diffused, and suggests links between LRA4 and the supply of highly prized wine to religious sites – including to Lyon, Tours and Bordeaux (Pieri 2007, 152). Notably, for comparisons with Britain, LRA2 is less common.

Additionally, four Palestinian LRA5/'Bag shaped' wine amphorae of probable 5th- or 6th-century date were identified at Place Camille-Jullian (Berthault 2012, 316); a type that has not been recognised among the British imports (Campbell 2007, 19). Finally, whereas the ceramic data from Saint-Christoly and Saint-Seurin would suggest exchange with the Mediterranean ceased by the start of the 6th century, the latest East Mediterranean and North African amphorae from Place Camille-Jullian indicated importation into the early 7th century (Berthault 2012, 317), well beyond the mid-6th century date generally given for the end of Mediterranean pottery imports to Britain. If Bordeaux was indeed supplied as part of the same exchange systems, this might indicate a foreshortening of the northern extent of the Atlantic routes by the later 6th century.

Michel Bonifay's report on the fineware from Place Camille-Jullian also discusses possible links with supply to Britain, but he suggests that the forms do not necessarily reveal a straightforward parallel. The identified LRC from Place Camille-Jullian (five sherds from two vessels) is of the same form LRC3 that characterises its British distribution (Bonifay 2012, 257-8). A sherd of LRC of Hayes Form 3C was also previously recorded from the excavations at Saint-Christoly, Bordeaux (Hayes 1972; Mayet and Picon 1986, 130). Reynolds notes that the majority of LRC found in Britain fits into the period AD 460–550, but mentions the presence of a few early 7th-century LRC Form 10 vessels at Tintagel (Reynolds 2010, 108), as originally identified by Thomas (Thomas 1981, 6). Campbell has, however, identified these same sherds as LRC Form 3E, reaffirming the 'tight' chronology (c.AD 475-525) he proposed for the importation of this ware (Campbell 2007, 14). The ARS from Place Camille-Jullian (a minimum of 14 vessels) also shows some similarities to the vessels recovered in post-Roman contexts in western Britain, principally Hayes Forms 91C, 99A, 103 and 104 (Bonifay 2012, 256). Bonifay, however, identified other, later forms that have not been observed within British assemblages, specifically Hayes 90, 105 and 109A, which again indicate importation to Bordeaux into the first half of the 7th century (Bonifay 2012, 256).

The Place Camille-Jullian excavations may have additional relevance for dating finds of 'DSP' in Britain and Ireland; it produced 4680 sherds of this ware, although a high proportion was thought to be residual in later contexts (Soulas 2012, 247). Campbell suggested a largely 6th-century date for the Insular examples (29 vessels), as the forms encountered seemed to belong later in the DSP repertoire (Campbell 2007, 27-8). Soulas' table of DSP frequency from Place Camille-Jullian records the presence of Rigoir Form 29 mortaria (as found at Tintagel and Dinas Powys) from the later 5th century and throughout the 6th, and Form 16 (also found at Dinas Powys) intermittently from the early 5th, though more frequently from the mid-5th century onward (Soulas 2012, 247). Considerations of the stratigraphic relationship between DSP forms and the imported Mediterranean wares emerging from excavations at Bordeaux might have further implications for the chronology of Mediterranean and continental imports to Britain.

Research currently being carried out in France by Joachim Le Bomin has further potential to increase the available information on imported pottery in Atlantic regions. Beyond this growing French data, increasing amounts of imported Mediterranean pottery have also been identified from sites along the north and west coast of Spain and Portugal. As mentioned, the imported late Roman pottery at Conimbriga has been referred to in research on the British finds (Fulford 1989, 3; Campbell 2007, 16). Significant quantities of late imported fineware have been identified at the Suevic capital Braga/Bracara Augusta, principally ARS, but also LRC – of which Hayes Form 3 dominates – and two sherds of LRD/Cypriot Red Slip Ware, a ware not yet identified in Britain or Ireland (Quaresma and Morais 2012, 375). Conversely, the site produced a larger proportion of East Mediterranean to North African amphorae – echoing the British pattern – despite the absence of LRA2 (Quaresma and Morais 2012, 380). Mediterranean imports, including LRC form 3 have been identified from various excavations at A Coruña, also in Galicia (López Pérez 2004).The fish-salting complex at Tróia in Portugal has likewise produced imported pottery, mostly dating up to the early to mid-5th century, but with some later fineware forms, including ARS Hayes Forms 91B and 91C and one LRC Hayes form 3, associated with a necropolis at the site following its 5th-century abandonment (Magalhães 2012 365-70). One LRA1 was identified at a villa site at Gijón in northern Spain (Fernández Ochoa et al. 2006, 143) extending the distribution of these imports.

Of crucial importance to these Atlantic systems, however, is the pottery recovered from recent excavations at the city of Vigo in north-west Spain (Fernández 2010; 2014), where the largest quantity of 5th to 7th-century Mediterranean imports has been identified on the Atlantic. The quantity of LRC alone identified at Vigo exceeds the entire British and Irish assemblage of all contemporary Mediterranean imported pottery (Campbell 2007, xiv; Fernández 2014, 222). As with the British material, the amphorae are principally of east Mediterranean origin, but following the pattern at Bantham rather than Tintagel, LRA1 dominates the assemblage (Fernández 2010, 234-5). Bonifay notes that only the sites of Vigo and Place Camille-Jullian, Bordeaux have the latest imports on the Atlantic Seaboard (dating into to the 7th century) (Bonifay 2012, 256). Both locations have examples of late ARS forms that have not been identified in Britain or Ireland. However, Bonifay identifies certain differences in the composition of the two assemblages, specifically the relative proportion of finewares (mostly ARS at Place Camille-Jullian but LRC in contemporary contexts at Vigo), as well as the scarcity of LRA4 at Vigo in comparison with Bordeaux (Bonifay 2012, 256). The incorporation of Vigo into a more complex system of Atlantic transport – as revealed by the work of Adolfo Fernández Fernández – is acknowledged to make sense over the earlier, simple model of direct connection between the east Mediterranean and Britain, but Bonifay indicates that these specific distinctions leave room for the possibility that some goods also arrived at Bordeaux via inland channels (Bonifay 2012, 256). Nevertheless, the presence of Atlantic DSP at Vigo clearly indicates some sort of direct connection between Vigo and Bordeaux (Reynolds 2010, 105; Bonifay 2012, 256).