British Collection Highlights:

Roman Pots in the Founding Collection

These Romano-British jars were two of the first Roman objects to enter the museum’s collection. Six Roman pots are recorded in the 1685 catalogue known as The Book of the Junior Proctor (AN1685B.680-685). Catalogue numbers 680, 684 and 685 are not securely identifiable with any currently held artefacts, while number 682 is now known to be Anglo-Saxon, dating to the fifth or sixth century. Whether these two pots can be identified with the ‘2 Roman Urnes’ of the 1656 catalogue of the Tradescant collection is uncertain and will probably never be known. The only other Roman pot listed in the Tradescant catalogue, identified with the stamp CAMPANION in its base, is not now known in the Ashmolean’s collection.

AN1685B.681 is a brownish-orange, wide-mouthed jar with its rim grooved to take a lid. It is decorated with grooves on the body and was once covered with a white slip, which has now mostly deteriorated. Inside are fragments of cremated bone, and it is possible that the inscription SATTONIS, which was scratched into the side of the pot after firing, gives the name of the deceased (Satto) in the genitive.

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Two Roman Pots from Founding Collection (Click to enlarge)

These two pots were the Ashmolean's first Romano-British artefacts (AN1685B.681 & AN1685B.683)

This pot is typical of material produced in the Hertfordshire/Middlesex region during the first half of the second century AD. Of known workshops, it most closely resembles the products of the potteries at Brockley Hill in Middlesex. As these pots were not distributed far from their production sites, it is likely that the jar was found in or around London, perhaps during the rebuilding following the great fire of 1666, or Verulamium (St Albans).

AN1685B.683 is a grey, narrow-mouthed jar, decorated with combed wavy lines, bands of burnishing and a thin white slip. It is typical of products from the Alice Holt potteries near Farnham, Surrey. Its physical type (1A 16) dates to AD 275-400 and beyond, though the wavy comb decoration places it within the fourth century. It is difficult to pinpoint a likely findspot as these pots had a wide distribution across southern England.

AN1685B.683 is currently on display in the 'Ark to Ashmolean' gallery on the lower ground floor.

Roman Jar

Roman jar with grooved decoration dating from the first half of the second century AD (AN1685B.681)

Roman Jar

Narrow mouthed Roman jar dating to the fourth century AD (AN1685B.683)

Further Information

For more information on the early collections and the manuscript catalogues:

MacGregor, A. (ed.), Tradescant’s Rarities (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).

MacGregor, A., Manuscript Catalogues of the Early Museum Collections 1683-1886 (Part I) (Oxford: BAR, International Series 907, 2000).

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Kristina Glicksman
January 2012