Training Day 2

Sorry to say that there’s no dig diary today … demands from my other job this morning meant I couldn’t go to site and it was the Samian pottery workshop this afternoon – given by Samian expert Felicity Wild.

The word Samian, used to refer to the red/brown pottery that we associate so strongly with the Roman period, may come from Pliny who talked about the beautiful pottery of Samos, but no one knows what the Romans called it.  In the 1st century AD it comes mostly from La Graufesenque, S Gaul; in the 2nd century from Lezoux in Central Gaul and in the late 2nd and onwards from E Gaul.  For any pieces that are recognizable from Castleshaw we would be looking at the first two regions.

Samian is made in a mould, the inside carved out for the pattern and style, then the clay pressed inside….here’s a piece of such a mould –


The pottery would easily come out of the mould as it would have shrunk a little and would then be dipped in slip.  Fingermarks are commonly found on Samian because of this, and also potters used to make their mark in more formal ways, i.e. with their names.  One of the most prolific potters’ names, found more than any other, is CINNAMUS… As that is so common I wonder if it’s almost like a factory name like say MOORCROFT..?  Just a thought.  But here’s a piece that Felicity showed us with a stamp in it…. is it CINNAMUS?  Not sure…and I don’t think you can tell from the photo?  Let me know if you can…


By the way that note on the pad doesn’t mean it’s Cheshire Plain Ware – it means that some of the sherds we’ve found at Castleshaw may be that – not Samian.

Here’s some of the group identifying pieces…

…..DSC_0400… DSC_0398DSC_0412 …..DSC_0417

…………..DSC_0401  DSC_0418

The sherds in the last photo above were all found at Manchester.

DSC_0403  Here’s Felicity giving of her expertise.. and here she is below showing us how to make a rubbing with powdered graphite.


The time went all too quickly but Felicity gave us a really interesting glimpse into a vast area of study. There’s one thing we’re sure of though – we’ll never be able to get any rubbings of our little bits of Samian at Castleshaw – it would break up at the first hint of pressure!

Back tomorrow!


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