Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Italian-type (Arretine) sigillata

Classic terra sigillata (`arretine') production commenced at Arezzo (Toscana/IT) during the early Augustan period. Additional workshops were set up in Italy, at Pisa (IT) and elsewhere, and also in southern Gaul, particularly at Lyon (Rhône/FR). Study of stamps and moulds suggests the movement of potters between workshops.


The workshops at Arezzo (Etruria) had long been considered to be the only significant source of ‘Arretine’ ware. The discovery of kilns producing apparently identical material at Lyon in 1966 demonstrated the existence of branch-workshops, some initiated by Arezzo potters. Subsequent application of chemical provenancing techniques to the assemblage from the Augustan legionary fortress of Haltern in Germany (the ‘type site’ for Loeschcke’s classic study of ‘Italian’ sigillata) has shown that 50% is from the La Muette workshop at Lyon, 30% from Pisa and only 10% definitely from Arezzo. Sigillata studies are currently in a state of flux, with the discovery of new and previously unexpected sources, and it is proposed that the term ‘Italian-type’ be employed for any material (of whatever source) whose appearance closely resembles that of the Arezzo workshops (Ettlinger et al. 1990, 1).

Fabric and technology

Identification of sources of ‘Italian-type’ sigillata fabrics is a specialized task, which may be assisted by petrological and chemical analysis. Classic Arezzo ware is hard, smooth textured orange-brown (2.5YR 5/8) fabric with conchoidal fracture. Slip bright glossy red (10R 4/8) ; clean matrix includes only a few white flecks (<0.1mm) and occasional voids. Lyon fabric varies somewhat, but generally hard, smooth-textured light red-brown fabric (5YR 7/6, 6/6) with dull red-brown slip (10YR 4/8) ; finely irregular fracture with abundant fine white flecks, sparser red flecks, a little fine quartz sand (all < 0.1mm) and a scatter of elongated voids (up to 0.2mm).


Production at Arezzo from c. 45 BC, of both red and black-slipped wares; some provincial workshops opened by c. 35/30 BC, with production at Lyon from c. 15 BC. Earliest imports to Britain include platters with radial stamps, which should date to c. 20 BC (e.g. Wickenden 1986, 53, fig.26,9). but the bulk of the British assemblage can be matched at Haltern (c. 5 BC-AD 9) rather than at earlier sites. Decline during Tiberian period, and very rare on conquest-period, Claudian sites.


Principal Italian factories at Arezzo, Pisa and Puteoli; provincial workshops located in north-east Spain, southern France and Lyon. The British assemblage certainly includes many pieces from Arezzo, but a few vessels from Lyon, Puteoli and Pisa workshops have also been identified (Williams and Dannell 1978, 9).


Widely distributed around the western Mediterranean basin, and beyond, in the eastern provinces. In Gaul, common in Languedoc and Provence, along the Rhône/Saône river systems and in the Rhineland, particularly in Augustan military assemblages; outside this region generally less abundant, but increasing publication demonstrates a presence throughout Gaul. In Britain, central southern Britain and the south-east, particularly Essex and Herts.


JRPS bibliography fabrics arr and its. Silchester fabric E1.


Fundamental study now Ettlinger et al. 1990; for stamps: Oxé and Comfort 1968. A new computerised corpus of stamps is under development: Kenrick 1994. On British material: Hawkes and Hull 1947; Rodwell 1976; Dannell in Peacock 1971; Dannell in Williams 1981; Hartley and Williams in Potter and Trow 1988; for petrology: Williams and Dannell 1978; AML 3444 1981; Jefferson et al. 1981.


Ettlinger et al. 1990. Ettlinger, E., Hedinger, B., Hoffmann, B., Kenrick, P. M., Pucci, G., Roth-Rubi, K., Schneider, G., Schnurbein, S. von, Wells, C. M. and Zabehlicky-Scheffenegger, S., Conspectus formarum terrae sigillatae Italico modo confectae, Materialien zur römisch-germanischen Keramik, 10, R. Habelt, Bonn, (1990).

AML 3444 1981. Garner, M. and Williams, D. F., Petrological analysis of medieval floor-tiles from Hailes Abbey, Glos, 3444, English Heritage, London, (1981).

Hawkes and Hull 1947. Hawkes, C. F. C. and Hull, M. R., Camulodunum. First report on the excavations at Colchester, 1930-39, Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 14, Society of Antiquaries, Oxford, (1947).

Jefferson et al. 1981. Jefferson, T. O., Dannell, G. B. and Williams, D. F., ‘The production and distribution of Terra Sigillata in the area of Pisa, Italy’ in Roman Pottery research in Britain and North-West Europe. Papers presented to Graham Webster, ed. A. C. Anderson and A. S. Anderson, British archaeological reports. International series, 123, BAR, Oxford, (1981), pp. 161-72.

Kenrick 1994. Kenrick, P., ‘Hommage au professeur H. Comfort: La suite du Corpus Vasorum Arretinorum’ in Actes du Congrès de Millau. 12-15 Mai 1994. Société Française d’tude de la Céramique Antique en Gaule, ed. L. Rivet, SFECAG, Marseille, (1994), pp. 175-182.

Oxé and Comfort 1968. Oxé, A. and Comfort, H., Corpus Vasorum Arretinorum. A catalogue of the signatures, shapes and chronology of Italian sigillata, Antiquitas, 3.4, R. Habelt, Bonn, (1968).

Peacock 1971. Peacock, D. P. S., ‘Petrography of certain coarse pottery’ in Excavations at Fishbourne, 1961-69, ed. B. Cunliffe, 27, Reports of the research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, London, (1971), pp. 255-259.

Potter and Trow 1988. Potter, T. W. and Trow, S. D., ‘Puckeridge-Braughing, Herts: The Ermine Street excavations, 1971-1972’, HertsArch, 10, (1988), pp. 1-191.

Rodwell 1976. Rodwell, W. J., ‘Coinage, oppida and the rise of Belgic power in south-eastern Britain’ in Oppida: the beginnings of urbanisation in Barbarian Europe, ed. B. W. Cunliffe and T. Rowley, British archaeological reports. Supplementary series, 11, BAR, Oxford, (1976), pp. 181-367.

Wickenden 1986. Wickenden, N. P., ‘Prehistoric settlement and the Romano-British ’small town’ at Heybridge, Essex’, EssexAH, 17, (1986), pp. 7-68.

Williams 1981. Williams, D. F., ‘Petrological examination of a group of mica-dusted jars’ in Skeleton Green, ed. C. Partridge, London, (1981).

Williams and Dannell 1978. Williams, D. F. and Dannell, G. B., ‘Petrological analysis of Arretine and early samian: a preliminary report’ in Early fine wares in Roman Britain, ed. P. R. Arthur and G. D. Marsh, British archaeological reports. British series, 57, BAR, Oxford, (1978), pp. 5-13.

Distribution of Italian-type (Arretine) sigillata in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: ITTS (p.111)
Terra sigillata forms and kiln sites
  • Database of the principal terra sigillata forms.
  • Map of the principal terra sigillata kiln sites
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: LYO SA (Lyon, Italian-style sigillata, p.26).
  • Fabric code: PIS SA (Pisa, Italian sigillata, p.27).
Thumbnail images
FACEM: Provenance Studies on Pottery in the Southern Central Mediterranean
(Universität Wien)
  • Fabric code: BNAP-TS-1 (Sigillata Puteolana )
  • Fabric code: BNAP-TS-2 (Sigillata Puteolana )
  • Fabric code: BNAP-TS-3 (Sigillata Puteolana )
  • Fabric code: BNAP-TS-4 (Sigillata Puteolana )
Pages include zoomable images.
DICOCER: Dictionnaire des Céramiques Antiques
(Py, ed 1993)
  • Fabric code: SIG-IT [PDF] (Céramique sigillée italique)
Pages may include descriptions of related types (text in French).
La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord
(Brulet, Vilvorder and Delage 2010)
  • Sigillée italique de Pise, fabrique A (TS.IT-PI.A) (p.49)
  • Sigillée italique, fabrique de La Muette (TS.IT-LMU) (p.52)
Images and text not available on-line. See also the listings of International Fabrics Reference Collection for Roman Ceramics at Louvain (text in French).
Museum of London ceramics catalogue
(Museum of London) Catalogue includes some images, but may include vessels of other types.
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/ITTS • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.