Pottery and Biscuits –

– looking for the delicious sounding ‘raspberry roundels’ in our Marcham pottery assemblage.

A visit to Marcham by Jane Timby, our Roman Pottery consultant, 23rd May 2013

Jane Timby talkJane spent the day with us in the pottery sorting work-room at Manor Farm and supervised a refresher pottery identification workshop. After a really interesting talk about the arrival of both the technology (and possibly some actual potters) and the products of proper wheel-thrown vessels into early Roman Britain, she showed us some samples of various regional British Roman fabric types. We showed her the range of Roman pottery fabric types our volunteer group has added to our Marcham pottery fabric reference collection over the last few months, and she was able to identify the kiln groups for them.

 The volunteers were particularly interested in her views on some usual 1st c. A.D pottery fabrics we had identified from the top layers of an unusual barrel-shaped enclosure, located just to the south of the temple and temenos complex. These turned out to include a few sherds of some rare high-status glazed Gaulish imported vessels (dated 40-60 A.D.) and a collection of fine decorated greywares showing a range of unusual barbotine applied dots and lines and swirls, early stamps and very elaborate incised designs, that Jane suspects may have derived from a local early pottery workshop that seems to pre-date the huge Oxford-centred Roman pottery industry that developed later in the region.

'Rasberry Roundel' decoration, compared to the much tastier version preferred by our volunteers

‘Rasberry Roundel’ decoration, compared to the much tastier version preferred by our volunteers

It was a very enjoyable and productive day and the only disappointment for our team was Jane having to correct us on one of our more excitable identification sessions, where we had thought we had found a design called “raspberry roundels” found on early 1st c. Lyons vessels. Ours was very similar, but a copy-cat British version with the less delicious-sounding name of “applied barbotine dot panels”! You can’t win them all and the pottery group will continue to strive to identify as many fabric types that sound like a luxury M& S biscuit as we can!

Sheila Raven