Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Céramique à l'éponge

A range of fine slipped wares decorated with darker marbled or sponged patterns, produced in western France and distributed across western and northern Gaul and southern Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

A pale creamy-yellow fine-textured fabric (7.5YR 7/6) with a smooth glossy yellow-orange or reddish-brown slip, variable in thickness. Wheel-thrown. Upon this is superimposed (in a darker slip) a blurred floral or star pattern, or a simpler marbled effect, hence the French name ‘sponged ware’.

Forms

Raimbault (1973) defines twelve principal types. Some are derived from late sigillata prototypes. A general affinity with other late Roman red-slipped traditions of eastern Gaul and Britain.

Type Form Prototype
I Shallow plate
II Hemispherical cup
III Hemispherical bowl
IV Hemispherical bowl
V Straight-sided bowl Drag. 44/45
VI Flanged bowl Drag. 38
VII Necked bowl
VIII Large beaker Déch. 72
IX Small beaker
X Flagon
XI Pinch-mouthed flagon
XII Face-jug

Table 1.  Classification of la cramique l’ponge forms (after Raimbault)

The bowls (V-VII) and jug (X) are the commonest forms, and the most common in Britain.

Chronology

Production commenced in the early 3rd cent., but initially only for a local market. Wider distribution dates to the 4th cent., but production may continues until c. AD 450.

Source

Western France, perhaps near Civaux (Vienne) where there is a particularly wide range of forms and decorative types.

Distribution

Common in western France, between the Loire and Gironde and scatter of findspots in Brittany and Normandy (as far as the Seine), the Channel Islands and southern Britain.

Aliases

Caister-on-sea fabric EPON-32. Chelmsford fabric 22. Gloucester fabric TF12M. Kent fine fabric 6.

Bibliography

The original typology is Raimbault 1973; British finds listed by Fulford (1977, 45-7, Appendix 2) and the northern French and British distribution described in Galliou et al. 1980. Simon-Hiernard (1991) discusses source, dating and distribution.

References

Fulford 1977. Fulford, M. G., ‘Pottery and Britain’s foreign trade in the later Roman period’ in Pottery and early commerce. Characterization and trade in Roman and later ceramics, ed. D. P. S. Peacock, Academic Press, London, (1977), pp. 35-84.

Galliou et al. 1980. Galliou, P., Fulford, M. G. and Clement, M., ‘La diffusion de la céramique “à l’ponge” dans le Nord-Ouest de l’empire romain’, Gallia, 38, (1980), pp. 265-78.

Raimbault 1973. Raimbault, M., ‘La céramique gallo-romaine dite “à l’ponge” dans l’ouest de la France’, Gallia, 31, (1973), pp. 185-206.

Simon-Hiernard 1991. Simon-Hiernard, D., ‘Du nouveau sur la céramique à l’ponge’ in Actes du Congrès de Cognac, 8-11 mai 1991. Société Française d’tude de la Céramique Antique en Gaule., ed. L. Rivet, SFECAG, Marseille, (1991), pp. 61-76.

Distribution of Céramique à l'éponge in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: EPON (p.144)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: EPO MA (Céramique à l'éponge Marbled ware, p.56).
Thumbnail images
La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord
(Brulet, Vilvorder and Delage 2010)
  • Céramique à l'éponge, fabrique poitevine (EPO-A) (p.261)
Images and text not available on-line. See also the listings of International Fabrics Reference Collection for Roman Ceramics at Louvain (text in French).
Céramique à l'éponge
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/EPON • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.