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The Roman Pottery of Kent
by Dr Richard J. Pollard  -  Chapter 2  page 20
Doctoral thesis completed in 1982, published 1988

assemblage need be studied in detail, featureless body sherds need not be fabric-sorted except to facilitate the search for clearly-defined wares. Rim sherds are placed on a chart with concentric arcs of preset radii divided into degrees of a circle, so that the portion of a complete circular vessel represented by each sherd is expressed as a percentage figure. In practice it is difficult to measure the diameter of sherds of less than 18° (5 per cent) of the rim; these are consequently omitted from the quantification.
   It will be obvious that either the full assemblage recovered or a random sample drawn from that assemblage (Orton 1978; Redman 1979; Vince 1977b) is required for quantified techniques to produce results that reflect accurately the recovered material. These conditions can be ascertained to occur only rarely in museum collections, owing to the lack of archived notes by the excavators and receiving curators. Hodder (1974b) faced this problem when he sought to deduce marketing patterns from pottery collections; he argued that whilst collection and retention procedures might favour visibly attractive sherds, producing a bias in assemblage proportions towards fine wares, there was no evidence to suggest that these procedures treated one coarse or ‘grey’ ware differently to another (Hodder 1974c). It was legitimate, therefore, to use sherd-counts of coarse wares to provide data from which their marketing patterns might be hypothesised. These counts are translated into percentage expressions of relative frequency to produce comparable figures for inter-site analysis.
   The present author has not favoured Hodder’s method, as it is not compatible with the vessel rim equivalence analysis (Orton 1975; 1980, 156—67) conducted on suitable assemblages, and the assumptions that it makes concerning collection and retention would seem to represent a fundamental weakness that could not justify the application of the method on a large scale. The number of assemblages

that have been analysed by the ‘equivalent number of vessels’ technique is not large, and it is unfortunate that this technique has only recently received publicity, for as a consequence of this there are few published analyses available for comparison with the present author’s data. Those that have been consulted are listed in Appendix One. The ‘minimum numbers of vessels represented’ technique has been applied to a small number of assemblages from the north-west of Kent and Greater London (e.g. Philp 1973; Tyers 1977; Tyers and Marsh 1978). Orton’s statement (1975, 31) that the results of this method cannot be compared with one another severely undermines the usefulness of these publications. However, in some instances sherd counts have also been published (e.g. Philp 1963a; 1973) providing a basis for inter-site and intra-site comparison particularly within the north-west.

4. ‘Fine’ and ‘Coarse’ wares
Something must be said concerning the division of Roman pottery into ‘fine’ and ‘coarse’ categories. These terms are widely used in both specialist reports and articles of a more general nature, without reference to a standard definition. Ironically, one of the prime examples of this malpractice is the Council for British Archaeology handbook (Webster, 1976), which claimed to represent an ‘attempt to establish a consistent method of describing Romano-British coarse pottery. . . as a move towards the clarification of the terms in use for types of fabric, decoration and vessel’ (ibid., 3). The title and foreword (from which this quotation is taken) of the volume imply that discussion is restricted to ‘coarse’ pottery; the introduction states that ‘the local pottery of Roman Britain. . . consists of a wide variety of fabrics both coarse and fine’ (ibid., 4). Fabrics described include a wide range from the hand-made, calcite-gritted Huntcliff ware to

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