Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

North African red-slipped ware

A wide range of fine red-slipped table wares and coarser cooking wares produced in Tunisia and widely distributed around the Mediterranean and across the north-west provinces during the 2nd to 6th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

North African wares comprise a series of related fabrics which share some common characteristics. The main variants are:

Early fabrics: Hard granular fabrics with pimply surfaces; brick-red or orange-red with fine quartz, sand and rare mica, with a fine polished glossy slip over all surfaces, similar in colour to the body. A related cooking-ware has a similar body, but traces of a dull slip (or unslipped) and is frequently blackened near the rim (late 1st-2nd cent).

Later thin fine fabric: A very thin, smooth-textured ware which tends to splinter in the break; thin slip, which may be glossy or matt (3rd cent.).

Later coarser ware: A series of granular ware with pimply surfaces; usually a matt slip, which does not cover all the surfaces (4th-5th cent).


The full range of forms in North African red slip ware is immense. Some of the earlier plates, cups and bowls (late 1st to mid-2nd cent.) follow Italian and Gaulish sigillata prototypes, but with barbotined or rouletted decoration. The later assemblage includes a variety large shallow plates or small bowls and coarse-ware bowls with sagging bases.


Production commences in the period c. AD 80/100 and continues until Arab invasions of 7th cent. In Britain, a scatter through the 2nd-4th cent. Some importation to western Britain with other Mediterranean imports, c. AD 475-550.




Widespread around the western Mediterranean from 2nd to 6th centuries, forming a significant part of assemblages in Provence and the Rhône valley during 3rd-5th cent. AD. Uncommon in northern provinces, although there are an increasing number of identifications from Britain.

Influence from African coarse ware styles can be seen in Gaulish and British industries of the 3rd cent (e.g. Swan 1994).


Carlisle fabric 146. JRPS bibliography fabric ars. Kent fine fabric 1. British (Tintagel) class Aii.


The fundamental study is Hayes 1972, with supplement (Hayes 1980). British distribution catalogued by Bird (1977) and Thomas (1981, 15-6); see also Rahtz et al. 1992, 162-5.


Bird 1977. Bird, J., ‘African Red Slip ware in Roman Britain’ in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond Papers presented to J. P. Gillam, July 1977, ed. J. Dore and K. T. Greene, British archaeological reports. International series, 30, BAR, Oxford, (1977), pp. 269-78.

Hayes 1972. Hayes, J. W., Late Roman pottery, British School at Rome, London, (1972).

Hayes 1980. Hayes, J. W., A supplement to Late Roman Pottery, British School at Rome, London, (1980).

Rahtz et al. 1992. Rahtz, P. A., Woodward, A., Burrow, I., Everton, A., Watts, L., Leach, P., Hirst, S., Fowler, P. and Gardner, K., Cadbury Congresbury 1968-73. A late/post-Roman hilltop settlement in Somerset, British archaeological reports. British series, 223, Tempus Reparatum, Oxford, (1992).

Swan 1994. Swan, V. G., ‘Legio VI and its Men: African Legionaries in Britain’, JRPS, 5, (1994), pp. 1-34.

Thomas 1981. Thomas, C., A provisional list of imported pottery in Post-Roman Britain and Ireland, Special report, 7, Institute of Cornish Studies, Redruth, (1981).

Distribution of North African red-slipped ware in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: NARS (p.152)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: NAF RS (North African Red-slipped ware, p.61).
Thumbnail images
DICOCER: Dictionnaire des Céramiques Antiques
(Py, ed 1993)
  • Fabric code: AF-CUI [PDF] (Céramique africaine de cuisine)
  • Fabric code: CLAIR-A [PDF] (Céramique africaine Claire A)
  • Fabric code: CLAIR-C [PDF] (Céramique africaine Claire C)
  • Fabric code: CLAIR-D [PDF] (Céramique africaine Claire D)
Pages may include descriptions of related types (text in French).
La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord
(Brulet, Vilvorder and Delage 2010)
  • Sigillée claire africaine, fabrique D (TS.CL.AF-D) (p.205)
Images and text not available on-line. See also the listings of International Fabrics Reference Collection for Roman Ceramics at Louvain (text in French).
North African red-slipped ware
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/NARS • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.