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Roman Britain

Description: Sherd of Samian pottery. Narrow, with design including a hunting dog and bird. Made in Gaul and excavated in Leadenhall St., London, July 1929.
Period: 1st/2nd Century A.D.
Size: 86 mm long
Comment: Original find label on the back. Leadenhall Street is in the financial centre of London, close to the Bank of England and in Roman Londinium just north/north east of the basilica and forum.


The Romans admired highly polished red-gloss earthenware-possibly in reaction against Greek and Hellenistic black pottery. The red-gloss technique developed in the eastern Mediterranean in the late Hellenistic period. This ware was made by dipping the pot in a suspension of fine particles of high-silica clay (which gave a higher gloss when polished) and firing it in an oxidizing kiln. Decoration took the form of raised designs: the pots were formed in clay moulds that had been impressed along the edges with roulettes in repeat motifs, stamped with other designs and figures, and given further details that were hand-carved in the mould-hence the term terra sigillata ("stamped earth") for this ware. (The term is often also applied by extension to the clay suspension in which the pots were dipped.) Many designs and shapes were inspired by metalwork and cut glass. Arretium (modern Arezzo) was the centre for red-gloss ware with relief decoration, and the best of this pottery, from the 1st centuries BC and AD, is thus called Arretine ware. Several areas of the Roman Empire made Arretine ware, but as manufacture moved farther from the capital, the quality of the red-gloss ware declined. The best was from southern France from the 1st century AD.

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