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The Roman Pottery of Kent
by Dr Richard J. Pollard  -  Chapter 1  page 1
Doctoral thesis completed in 1982, published 1988



It is a truism of Romano-British archaeology that pottery is by far the most common type of artefact encountered in most field-work and excavations. This material has rarely been wholly ignored, even by those whose interests centred on structural finds such as walls and mosaics, as was often the case with the early antiquarians. However, a bias towards brightly-coloured and decorated wares such as Terra Sigillata (samian ware) and ‘Castor ware’ (colour-coated vessels with zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, or vegetal decoration) is apparent in most early pottery reports, with the far more numerous ‘grey wares’ receiving little or no attention. The strong sense of aesthetics shown by the antiquarians inevitably produced some invaluable pieces of research, particularly into the figure-types and forms exhibited by samian ware. The studies of ancient trade, belief and entertainment have benefited immensely from such work as, of course, has the establishment of chronologies. The latter field of investigation, invoking the undoubted worth of both the imported and indigenous pottery of Roman Britain as a dating medium, has tended to overshadow the potential of this material as an index of socio-economic matters such as trade and exchange systems and industrial organisations. The developing interest in ‘grey wares’ and other coarse wares in the early

twentieth century, reflected in, for example, the reports by Bushe-Fox on the excavations at Wroxeter (Bushe-Fox 1913, 1914, 1916), was channelled primarily to the elucidation of chronology and stylistic affinity.
   In general, the ‘tribal’ approach of culture-definition that was for long the cornerstone of prehistoric archaeology has not been applied to Romano-British studies, except where these involve the interaction of Roman and barbarian; for example, in the study of the Germanic infiltration of the provinces in the late period. ‘Romaño-Saxon pottery styles have been alleged to reflect the influence of Germanic taste on Roman pottery (see, for example, Hurst 1976; this claim has been disputed by Gillam (1979)). It is true to say, as a general statement, that the single most striking feature of Romano-British pottery is not its diversity, but the overall similarity in the range of form and decoration over space and time, particularly with regard to coarse or ‘kitchen’ wares.
   The last thirty years have witnessed the flowering of the study of the pottery of Roman Britain, both in its own right and as an index of broader socio-economic patterns. Research has tended to be conducted along the lines either of the study of a single ‘industry’ or of the pottery

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