Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Colchester mortaria

Mortaria manufactured at Colchester (Essex/GB) during 1st and 2nd centuries AD; wide distribution in eastern and northern England and southern Scotland during mid-late 2nd century AD.

Introduction

Mortaria were produced at Colchester from c. AD 50/55, but until the mid-2nd cent. the industry was relatively small scale. Some Colchester potters moved to the Verulamium region during the 1st cent. (see VRMO). From c. AD 140 production expanded, influenced by potters from the Rhineland who developed colour-coated and sigillata in the same workshops. Only the 2nd cent. Colchester mortaria are considered here.

Fabric and technology

Fine textured cream or creamy-yellow fabric with some fine quartz, flint and red-brown ironstone tempering; gritted with quartz and flint.

Forms

Mortaria; several varieties, including hooked flange, deep vertical flange and short stubby flange with a narrow bead (e.g. Colchester forms 497, 498, 501. Gillam 263, 265).

Stamps

Several named potters; also herringbone stamps, which are particularly characteristic of Colchester mortaria.

Potter Date
ACCEPTUS 140-190 also stamped COTS
AMMINUS 140-190
BARO 140-190 -> RBMO?
CUNOPECTUS 160-200 also stamped COTS
DUBITATUS 140-180
LITUGENUS 140-180
MARIAUS 140-190
MARTINUS 140-190
MESSOR 140-180
REGALIS 160-200 <-> Ellingham (Norfolk)

Table 1.  Principal Colchester mortarium potters, AD 140-200

Chronology

AD 140-200; the herringbone stamps generally AD 140-170/180

Source

Principally Colchester, but similar fabrics also produced elsewhere in East Anglia and perhaps Kent. One Colchester potter Regalis, also had workshops at Ellingham (Norfolk) and two, Cunopectus and Acceptus, stamped both mortaria and sigillata at Colchester.

Distribution

South-east England (East Anglia and Kent), northern England and Scotland. Colchester was a major supplier to forts on the Antonine frontier (55% at Rough Castle; 45% at Inveresk).

Aliases

Caister-on-sea fabric COLCH. Chesterfield fabrics m14 and m15. Colchester fabric TZ. Gestingthorpe mortarium fabrics A-G. Great Chesterford mortarium fabrics 14-15. JRPS bibliography fabric clm. Rough Castle mortarium fabric 2.

Bibliography

On the kilns Hull 1963;: RCHM gazetteer 92-5, F273-88; for overall distribution Hartley 1973;: for Scottish distribution: Hartley in MacIvor et al. 1981, 261-6.

References

Hartley 1973. Hartley, K. F., ‘The marketing and distribution of mortaria’ 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. 35-91.

Hull 1963. Hull, M. R., The Roman potters’ kilns of Colchester, Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 21, Society of Antiquaries and the Corporation of the Borough of Colchester, Oxford, (1963).

MacIvor et al. 1981. MacIvor, I., Thomas, M. C. and Breeze, D. J., ‘Excavations on the Antonine Wall fort of Rough Castle, Stirlingshire, 1957-61’, PSAS, 110, (1981), pp. 230-85.

Distribution of Colchester mortaria in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: COMO (p.119)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: COL WH (Colchester White ware, p.133).
Thumbnail images
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Colchester (Essex)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Colchester mortaria
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/COMO • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.