Museum Musings May 2021 – Same Again Samian

Samian ware is one of the most common finds on Roman sites, but on the PAS it is fairly uncommon. This is largely because it is ceramic and not picked up by a metal detector.

Roman pottery in West Berkshire Museum

Samian was produced in several areas of modern day France and Germany.  Based forms, makers stamps and decoration it can be determined when and where they are from. Given this precision it is the best object for dating archaeological sites, as it is far more abundant than coinage.

Samian ware on the PAS

Samian is found in every region and from almost the whole Roman period. In Britain, forms have been found produced between the late 1st century BC and the mid-3rd century.

Pattern of Samian imports to Britannia during the Roman period

Samian stamps are often found on the inside of the vessel stamped on the base, but they can also be found on the underside of the base and sometimes around the sides in the decoration. This base sherd from a a Samian ware cup, dating to the period AD 145-175 has maker’s stamp on the base, identified by Paul Booth as die 3a of Albucius II of Lezoux, France, a major centre for Samian production in central Gaul. The form is likely to be a small cup – Dragendorff 33 (see British Museum Collection 1937,0316.2 for a complete example).

Samian ware vessel from Oxfordshire

Because it is not metal, there is approximately a ratio of 1:125 (Samian sherds : Roman coins) on the database. So when you are out metal detecting if you find Samian, or indeed pottery of any period, bring it in with your finds to record. 

You’ll also be able to be able to visit West Berkshire Museum from Wednesday May 19th when we reopen