Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Italian mortaria

Mortaria manufactured in central Italy during 1st and 2nd centuries AD, with wide distribution around western Mediterranean; also Gaul, Rhineland and southern Britain

Fabric and technology

Several fabrics, but generally hard, rough textured, light brown (10YR 6/3) or creamy-pink (e.g. 7YR 8/2) with irregular fracture; abundant brown and red inclusions including lava, volcanic glass, feldspar and quartz, with some dark mica. Wheel-thrown.


Large, heavy mortaria with flat base and wide plain flange. The rim on earlier (1st cent. AD) examples is more down-turned than on later specimens. Perhaps made in two sizes in the 1st cent. AD – c. 42 and c. 49 cm diameter (Joncheroy 1972, 22).


Stamped across the rim, on both sides of the spout, and sometimes elsewhere; up to 3 lines long and recording estate name or tria nomina of owner or manager, and occasionally a consular date. Some estate owners are historically attested individuals (including members of the Imperial household or Senatorial classes) whose dates are known from other sources.


Principally AD 40-160.


Central Italy, particularly the Rome region, but also Etruria and Campania. Some made in the same workshops as building material, dolia, clay baths, sarcophagi, etc.


Principally Italy, but a scatter around the western and eastern Mediterranean (Riley 1979, 295-6) and across the northern provinces; occasional in Britain. Bricks and tile from the Italian brickyards served as ballast in some shipping from Italy. Italian mortaria are also found in wrecks, sometimes as a major item in the cargo (e.g. Parker 1992, nos. 98, 374, 470).


Exeter mortarium fabric FC20. Usk mortarium fabric 6.


Hartley 1973a; Hartley 1973b. For stamps: Steinby 1978.


Hartley 1973a. 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.

Hartley 1973b. Hartley, K. F., ‘La diffusion des mortiers, tuiles et autres produits en provenance des fabriques italiennes’, Cahiers d’Archéologie Subaquatique, 2, (1973), pp. 49-60.

Joncheroy 1972. Joncheroy, J.-P., ‘Etude de l’epave Dramont D’, Cahiers d’Archéologie Subaquatique, 1, (1972), pp. 11-33.

Parker 1992. Parker, A. J., Ancient shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces, British archaeological reports. International series, 580, Tempus Reparatum, Oxford, (1992).

Riley 1979. Riley, J. A., ‘The coarse pottery from Benghazi’ in Excavations at Sidi Khrebish, Benghazi (Berenice). II, ed. J. A. Lloyd, Supplements to Libya Antiqua, 5, Department of Antiquities, Tripoli, (1979), pp. 91-497.

Steinby 1978. Steinby, M., ‘Ziegelstempel von Rom und Umbegung’ in Paulys Encyclopädie der classichen Altertumswissenschaft, Supplementband, XV, München, (1978). .

Distribution of Italian mortaria in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: ITMO (p.121)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: ITA WH (Italian White ware, p.73).
Thumbnail images
La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord
(Brulet, Vilvorder and Delage 2010)
  • Mortiers italiques Dramont 1 (MO-IT/D1) (p.372)
  • Mortiers italiques Dramont 2 (MO-IT/D2) (p.373)
Images and text not available on-line. See also the listings of International Fabrics Reference Collection for Roman Ceramics at Louvain (text in French).
Italian mortaria
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/ITMO • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.