Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roman Pottery at Caerleon

The website of the National Museum Wales has a nice page on the Roman Pottery at Caerleon. Although brief, the text and images raise such wide ranging issues as military supply, ancient literacy and modes of archaeological reasoning. Be sure to read the captions on the images.

The overlap between roman military studies and ceramic studies is of long standing. Remaining in the British Isles, chapter 11 of the online version of J. Curle's 1911 A Roman Frontier Post and its People: The Fort of Newstead in the Parish of Melrose briefly surveys the use of military history to establish ceramic chronology as understood at the time. That text is out of date, of course. See the Potsherd site for more current thinking.

Wales is at one edge of the cultural ambit of the ancient Mediterranean world. Jumping to the east, the 2005 JRA supplement Excavations on the site of Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'Uma) has added an interesting data point to the discussion of legionary ceramic supply during the Hadrianic and Antonine periods in ancient Palestine. Jodi Magness' Chapter 7 on the pottery from kilns associated with the presence of Legio X in Jerusalem has a conclusion (p. 104) that cites further bibliography. Earlier, she writes that "petrographic analysis has indicated that all of the pottery from the site is made of Motza clay or local Terra Rosa soil and was therefore produced in Jerusalem." (p. 70) This statement is based on work by Yuval Goren described on p. 193 of the same volume. These results are surprising given the range of types cataloged, which includes slipped tablewares, thin-walled wares, and utilitarian vessels. As Magness notes, "without petrographic analysis, we might have assumed that the pottery at the convention site is imported." (p. 106). She goes on to suggest that two or more of the potters had worked on the Rhine or Danube frontiers. It is interesting work that highlights the distinctive nature of Roman military supply.

No comments: