Recent excavations of the Via dei Sepolcri ceramic workshop in Pompeii provide an exceptional window into ancient Roman material culture. The remarkable ceramic objects found here, and importantly, the raw geological materials used in their production, afford a unique opportunity to gather information about each aspect of the organisation of the workshop and the ceramics production cycle, including those which are normally erased by the firing process. The exceptional nature of this site provides interesting insights into the system of raw material procurement, a facet poorly explored thus far due to the lack of ancient historical sources. The study is based on the investigation of 40 samples including pottery fragments, unfired, fired and overfired sherds and their source materials by means of optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy, Raman and FTIR spectroscopy; in addition, Sr–Nd isotopic and paleontological analyses completed the raw material characterisation. The workshop experienced two different periods of activity starting from the beginning of 1st century CE; in a first phase they produced a variegated repertoire of Thin Walled pottery using local alluvial sediments and clays imported from Ischia island. In a second phase (probably from 62 to 63 CE to 79 CE), the workshop became larger and more specialised, the Thin Walled types drastically decreased and the artisans exclusively utilized clayey sediments from outcrops near Mt. Picentini in the Salerno province. As complementary materials, the ceramic production also utilized local volcanic sands for tempering and decorative purposes along with a presumed imported red earth pigment for decorative finishing. Firing conditions, as inferred from mineral assemblages in the pottery, were not strictly controlled in either production phase as estimated firing temperatures vary widely from approximately 800 to 1000 °C. Likewise, atmospheric conditions in the kiln, as inferred from the variable occurrence of Fe2+ and Fe3+ oxides, were not carefully controlled in either production phase. When compared with data from the larger framework of coeval regional and extra-regional pottery productions, the data obtained suggest that the existing paradigm of the Exploitable Threshold Model, which implies a maximum distance of 7–8 km between the source of raw materials and their usage in production centres, may need to be revised by at least an order of magnitude where sea routes and ports were readily available, as was the case in Pompeii and the surrounding Bay of Naples.

A pottery workshop in Pompeii unveils new insights on the Roman ceramics crafting tradition and raw materials trade

Grifa C.;Germinario C.;Izzo F.;Mercurio M.;Langella A.;
2021-01-01

Abstract

Recent excavations of the Via dei Sepolcri ceramic workshop in Pompeii provide an exceptional window into ancient Roman material culture. The remarkable ceramic objects found here, and importantly, the raw geological materials used in their production, afford a unique opportunity to gather information about each aspect of the organisation of the workshop and the ceramics production cycle, including those which are normally erased by the firing process. The exceptional nature of this site provides interesting insights into the system of raw material procurement, a facet poorly explored thus far due to the lack of ancient historical sources. The study is based on the investigation of 40 samples including pottery fragments, unfired, fired and overfired sherds and their source materials by means of optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy, Raman and FTIR spectroscopy; in addition, Sr–Nd isotopic and paleontological analyses completed the raw material characterisation. The workshop experienced two different periods of activity starting from the beginning of 1st century CE; in a first phase they produced a variegated repertoire of Thin Walled pottery using local alluvial sediments and clays imported from Ischia island. In a second phase (probably from 62 to 63 CE to 79 CE), the workshop became larger and more specialised, the Thin Walled types drastically decreased and the artisans exclusively utilized clayey sediments from outcrops near Mt. Picentini in the Salerno province. As complementary materials, the ceramic production also utilized local volcanic sands for tempering and decorative purposes along with a presumed imported red earth pigment for decorative finishing. Firing conditions, as inferred from mineral assemblages in the pottery, were not strictly controlled in either production phase as estimated firing temperatures vary widely from approximately 800 to 1000 °C. Likewise, atmospheric conditions in the kiln, as inferred from the variable occurrence of Fe2+ and Fe3+ oxides, were not carefully controlled in either production phase. When compared with data from the larger framework of coeval regional and extra-regional pottery productions, the data obtained suggest that the existing paradigm of the Exploitable Threshold Model, which implies a maximum distance of 7–8 km between the source of raw materials and their usage in production centres, may need to be revised by at least an order of magnitude where sea routes and ports were readily available, as was the case in Pompeii and the surrounding Bay of Naples.
2021
Campania region
Pompeii
Raw materials trade
Roman pottery
Thin walled pottery
Via dei Sepolcri
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12070/46212
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