Samian ware

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Fine pottery, characterized by its glossy red appearance, mass‐produced as the standard table ware throughout the Roman world from the late 1st century bc to the 3rd century ad; also known as terra sigillata. It was mould‐made in both plain and decorated forms. A fine slip was used to coat the surfaces to produce an almost glaze‐like finish on the best examples. Vessels usually bear the name stamp of individual potters or workshops. The origins of Samian ware can be traced to the Megarian bowls first manufactured at Pergamon in the mid second century bc, followed shortly after 100 bc by the so‐called Eastern Sigillata. In the early reign of Augustus large‐scale production of Samian ware began at Arretium (Arezzo) in northern Italy. Arretine ware, as the products of this centre became known, were made between c.30 bc and ad 50. Samian ware was produced in several parts of Gaul from ad 20 through to the late 2nd century ad, the main centres being La Graufesenque and Montans (South Gaul), Lezoux and Les Martres‐ de‐Veyre (Central Gaul), and Rheinzabern, Chémery‐Faulquemont, and La Madeleine (East Gaul). Arretine and Gaulish Samian were exported throughout the western Roman Empire on a vast scale, and can provide very accurate chronological indicators. Numerous derivative Samian ware industries emerged across the Roman Empire from the 3rd century ad, including Argonne/Marne wares made in northeastern Gaul, Late Roman C ware in Asia Minor, Cypriot Red Slip ware manufactured in Cyprus, African Red Slip ware from North Africa, and Egyptian A–C ware, probably produced in Thebes and used throughout Upper Egypt and Nubia from the late 4th to the 7th century ad. Samian ware was first classified by Hans Dragendorff in 1895–6 and is still referred to by its Dragendorff form number (e.g. Drag. 5); F. Oswald and T. D. Pryce illustrate most of the known types in An introduction to the study of terra sigillata (1920, London: Longmans).

Subjects: Archaeology.

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