Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Black-burnished 2

Wheel-thrown grey or black sand-tempred wares, typically everted-rim jars with burnished lattice decoration, bead-rim and plain dishes. Produced at sites around the Thames estuary (Kent/GB and Essex/GB)and distributed in south-east England and in northern Britain during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.


Farrar (1973) concluded that the BB2 of the north originated at a number of sites around the Thames Estuary, and Williams (1977) subsequently indicated that the petrology suggested Colchester as a major source of the northern assemblage. However substantial BB2 production assemblages have not yet been identified at Colchester and apparently similar material is present on other Thames-side sites. The principal Hadrianic-Antonine BB2 fabric at London (described below) is apparently identical to the commonest Colchester BB2 fabric, but also very similar to that from some north Kent kiln sites.

Fabric and technology

Hard, sandy fabric, varying in colour from dark-grey or black with a brown or reddish brown core and a reddish-brown, blue-grey, black or lighter (‘pearly grey’) surface; very finely burnished with a characteristic ‘silky’ texture; abundant quartz inclusions and some black iron and mica set in a silty matrix. Wheel thrown.


Everted-rim jars, bowls and dishes. Jars and bowls have a lattice-decorated band across the body and dishes may have a single horizontal wavy line. The detail of form and decorative motifs in the assemblage from the north seems more restricted than that from sites in the south-east.


BB2 appears in small quantity below Hadrianic fire levels in London, but no evidence for production much before AD 120 and development of the style in the south-east seems to coincide with the expansion of the distribution of BB1 at that date. The fabric is common throughout the Antonine period.


Colchester, or north Kent.


The distribution of this BB2 fabric (as opposed to the other black-burnished wheel-thrown wares which are known to be circulating) in the south-east has not been defined, and is under-recorded on the map, . The general style is abundant in Kent, the London area, Hertfordshire and Essex. In the north BB2 is particularly characteristic of Antonine Wall deposits.


Caister-on-sea fabric BB2-102. Carlisle fabric 316. Chelmsford fabric 41. Colchester fabric GB. JRPS bibliography fabric bb2. Old Penrith fabric 44. Kent coarse fabric 4.


Farrar 1973; Williams 1977, group XII. The current state of BB2 studies is discussed by Monaghan 1987, 171-2; Pollard 1988, 87-91. Monaghan lists ‘BB2’ fabrics examined in the north and notes possible sources in the south-east (ibid., 256-7).


Farrar 1973. Farrar, R. A. H., ‘The techniques and sources of Romano-British black-burnished ware’ in Current research in Romano-British coarse pottery: papers given at a C.B.A. Conference held at New College, Oxford, March 24 to 26, 1972, ed. A. Detsicas, Research reports/Council for British Archaeology, 10, Council for British Archaeology, London, (1973), pp. 67-103.

Monaghan 1987. Monaghan, J., Upchurch and Thameside Roman pottery. A ceramic typology for northern Kent, first to third centuries A.D., British archaeological reports. British series, 173, Oxford, (1987).

Pollard 1988. Pollard, R. J., The Roman pottery of Kent, Monograph series of the Kent Archaeological Society, 5, Kent Archaeological Society, Maidstone, (1988).

Williams 1977. Williams, D. F., ‘The Romano-British black-burnished industry: an essay on characterization by heavy-mineral analysis’ in Pottery and early commerce. Characterization and trade in Roman and later ceramics, ed. D. P. S. Peacock, Academic Press, London, (1977), pp. 163-220.

Distribution of Black-burnished 2 in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: BB2 (p.182)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: COL BB 2 (Colchester Black-burnished ware 2, p.131).
  • Fabric code: MUC BB 2 (Mucking Black-burnished ware 2, p.135).
  • Fabric code: CLI BB 2 (Cliffe Black-burnished ware 2, p.165).
  • Fabric code: COO BB 2 (Cooling Black-burnished ware 2, p.166).
Thumbnail images
Museum of London ceramics catalogue
(Museum of London) Catalogue includes some images, but may include vessels of other types.
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Colchester (Essex)
  • Heybridge (Essex)
  • Thurrock (Essex)
  • Cliffe At Hoo (Kent)
  • Cooling (Kent)
  • Gravesend (Kent)
  • Highham (Kent)
  • Shorne (Kent)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Black-burnished 2
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/BB2 • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.