Terra sigillata: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der griechischen und römischen by Hans Dragendorff. Publication date Publisher A. Marcus. Dragendorff: H. Dragendorff, Terra Sigillata, Bon- ner Jahrbiicher 96 () Hermet: F. Hermet, La Graufesenque (). Ludowici: W. Ludowici. Hans Dragendorff, “Terra sigillata. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der griechischen und römischen Keramik”, Bonner Jahrbücher 96 (),

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Terra sigillata is a term with at least three distinct meanings: Usually roughly translated as ‘sealed earth’, the meaning of ‘terra sigillata’ is ‘clay bearing little images’ Latin sigilaltanot ‘clay with a sealed impervious surface’.

The archaeological term is applied, however, to plain-surfaced pots as well as those decorated with figures in relief. Terra sigillata as an archaeological term refers chiefly to a specific type of plain and decorated tableware made in Italy and in Gaul France and the Rhineland during the Roman Empire. These vessels have glossy surface slips ranging from a soft lustre to a brilliant glaze-like shine, in a characteristic colour range from pale orange to bright red; they were produced in standard shapes and sizes and were manufactured on an industrial scale and widely exported.

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The sigillata industries grew up in areas drxgendorff there were existing traditions of pottery manufacture, and where the clay deposits proved suitable. The products of the Italian workshops are also known as Aretine ware from Arezzo and have been collected and admired since the Renaissance.

The wares made in the Gaulish factories are often referred to by English-speaking archaeologists trera samian ware. Closely related pottery fabrics made in the North African and Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire are not usually referred to as terra sigillata, but by more sigilata names, e.

African red slip wares. All these types of pottery are significant for archaeologists: Modern “Terra sig” should be clearly distinguished from the close reproductions of Roman wares made by some dragendorfc deliberately recreating and using the Roman methods.

When applied to unfired clay surfaces, “terra sig” can be polished with a soft cloth or brush to achieve a shine ranging from a smooth silky lustre to a high gloss. The surface of ancient terra sigillata vessels did not require this burnishing or polishing.

Burnishing was a technique used on some wares in the Roman period, but terra sigillata was not one of them. The polished surface can only be retained if fired within the low-fire range and will lose its dragendorfff if fired higher, but can still display an appealing silky quality.

The oldest use for the term terra sigillata was for a medicinal clay from the island of Lemnos. The latter was called “sealed” because cakes of it were pressed together and stamped with the head of Artemis. Later, it bore the seal of the Ottoman sultan. This soil’s particular mineralic content was such that, in the Renaissanceit was seen as a proof against poisoning, as well as a general cure for aigillata bodily impurities, and it was highly prized as a medicine and medicinal component.

Sigiloataa miner named Adreas Berthold traveled around Germany selling Silesian terra sigillata made from a special clay dug from the hills outside the town of Striga, now AigillataPoland, and processed into small tablets. He promoted it as a panacea effective against every type of poison and several diseases, including plague.

Berthold invited authorities to test it themselves. In two cases, physicians, princes and dragfndorff leaders conducted trials involving dogs who were either given poison followed by the antidote or poison alone; the dogs who got the antidote lived dragendogff the dogs who got the poison alone died.

Ina prince tested the antidote on a condemned criminal, who survived. In English ethnographer dragendorcf translator Thomas Harriot wrote in A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia that Algonquians of the mid—Atlantic region treated various sores and wounds with wapeiha kind of terra sigillata that English surgeons and physicians found to be of the same kind “of vertue and more effectuall” than the contemporary European sort.

In archaeological usage, the term terra sigillata without further qualification normally denotes the Arretine ware of Italy, made at Arezzoand Gaulish samian ware manufactured first in South Gauldragendorfr at La Graufesenquenear Millauand later at Lezoux and adjacent sites near Clermont-Ferrandand at east Gaulish sites such as TrierSinzig and Rheinzabern.

These high-quality tablewares were particularly popular and widespread in the Western Roman Empire from about 50 BC to the early 3rd century AD. However, ‘samian ware’ is normally used only to refer to the sub-class of terra sigillata made in ancient Gaul. In European languages other than English, terra sigillata, or a translation e.

Scholars writing in English now often use “red gloss wares” or “red slip wares”, both to avoid these issues of definition, [9] and also because siillata other wares of the Roman period share aspects of technique with the traditional sigillata fabrics.

Italian and Gaulish TS vessels were made in standardised shapes constituting services of matching dishes, bowls and xragendorff vessels. These changed and evolved over time, and have been very minutely classified; the first major scheme, by the German classical archaeologist Hans Dragendorffis still in use as e.

The mould was therefore decorated on its interior surface with a full decorative design of impressed, intaglio sigillatw motifs that would appear in low relief on any bowl formed in it. As the bowl dried, the shrinkage was sufficient for it to be withdrawn from the mould, in order to carry out any finishing work, which might include the addition of foot-rings, the shaping and finishing of rims, and in all cases the application of the slip.


Careful observation of form and drzgendorff is therefore usually enough for an archaeologist experienced in the study of sigillata to date and identify a broken sherd: The classic guide by Oswald and Pryce, published in [13] set out many of the principles, but the literature on the subject goes back into the 19th century, and is now extremely voluminous, including many monographs on specific regions, as well as excavation reports on important sites that have produced significant assemblages of sigillata wares, and articles in learned journals, some of which are dedicated to Roman pottery studies.

The motifs and designs on fragendorff relief -decorated wares dragendorgf the general traditions of Graeco-Roman decorative arts, with depictions of deities, references to myths and legends, and popular themes such as hunting and erotic scenes.

Individual figure-types, like the vessel-shapes, have been classified, and in many cases they may be linked isgillata specific potters or workshops. Some of the decoration relates terea contemporary architectural ornament, with egg-and-tongue ovolo mouldings, acanthus and vine scrolls and the like. While the decoration of Arretine ware is often highly naturalistic in style, and is closely comparable with silver tableware of the same period, the designs on the Gaulish products, made by provincial artisans adopting Classical subjects, are intriguing for their expression of ‘ romanisation ‘, the fusion of Classical and native cultural and artistic traditions.

Many of the Gaulish manufacturing sites have been extensively excavated and studied. At La Graufesenque in southern Gaul, documentary evidence in the form of lists or tallies apparently fired with single kiln-loads, giving potters’ names and numbers of pots have long been known, and they suggest very large loads of 25,—30, vessels. Though not all the kilns at this, or other, manufacturing sites were so large, the excavation of the grand four big kiln at La Graufesenque, which was in use in the late 1st and early 2nd century, confirms the scale of the industry.

It is a rectangular stone-built structure measuring A work has shown that the slip is a matrix of mainly silicon and aluminium oxides, within which are suspended sub-microscopic crystals of haematite and corundum. The matrix itself does not contain any metallic ions, the haematite is substituted in aluminium and titanium while the corundum is substituted in iron.

The two crystal populations are homogenously dispersed within the matrix. The colour of haematite depends on the crystal size.

Large crystals of this mineral are black but as the size decreases to sub-micron the colour shifts to red. The fraction of aluminium has a similar effect. It was formerly thought that the difference between ‘red’ and ‘black’ samian was due to the presence black or absence red of reducing gases from the kiln and that the construction of the kiln was so arranged as to prevent the reducing gases from the fuel from coming into contact with the pottery.

It now appears as a result of this recent work that this is not the case and that the colour of the glossy slip is in fact due to no more than the crystal size of the minerals dispersed within the matrix glass.

Arretine ware, in spite of its very distinctive appearance, was an integral part of the wider picture of fine ceramic tablewares in the Graeco-Roman world of the Hellenistic and early Roman period. That picture must itself be seen in relation to the luxury tablewares made of silver. Centuries before Italian terra sigillata was made, Attic painted vasesand later their regional variants made in Italy, involved the sugillata of a very fine clay body covered with a slip that fired to a glossy surface without the need for any polishing or burnishing.

Greek painted wares xigillata involved the precise understanding and control of firing conditions dragejdorff achieve the contrasts of black and red. Glossy-slipped black pottery made in Etruria and Campania continued this technological tradition, though painted decoration gave way to simpler stamped motifs and in some cases, to applied motifs moulded in relief.

Relief-decorated cups, some in lead-glazed wares, were produced at several eastern centres, and undoubtedly played a part in the technical and stylistic evolution of decorated Arretine, but Megarian bowls, made chiefly in Greece and Asia Minor, are usually seen as the most direct inspiration.

Arretine ware began to be manufactured at and near Arezzo Tuscany a little before the middle of the 1st century BC. The industry expanded rapidly in a period when Roman political and military influence was spreading far beyond Italy: Certainly it epitomised certain aspects of Roman taste and technical expertise. Pottery industries in the areas we now call north-east France and Belgium quickly began to copy the shapes of plain Arretine dishes and cups in the wares now known as Gallo-Belgic, [22] and in South and Central Gaul, it was not long before local potters also began to emulate the mould-made decoration and the glossy red slip sigiolata.

The most recognisable decorated Arretine form is Dragendorff 11, a large, deep goblet on a high pedestal base, closely resembling some silver table vessels of the same period, such as the Warren Cup.

The iconographytoo, tended to match the subjects and styles terar on silver plate, namely mythological and genre scenes, including erotic subjects, and small decorative details of swags, leafy wreaths and ovolo egg-and-tongue borders that may be compared with elements of Augustan architectural ornament.

The deep form of the Dr. Major workshops, such as those of M. Ateius, stamped their products, and the names of the factory-owners and of the workers within the factories, which often appear on completed bowls and on plain wares, have been extensively studied, as have the forms of the vessels, and the details of their dating and distribution. Italian sigillata was not made only at or near Arezzo itself: The history of sigillata manufacture dragendorcf Italy is succinctly summarised in Hayespages 41— In the Middle Ages, examples of the ware that were serendipitously discovered in digging foundations in Arezzo drew admiring attention as early as the 13th century, when Restoro d’Arezzo ‘s massive encyclopedia included a chapter praising the refined Roman ware discovered in his native city, “what is perhaps the first account of an aspect of ancient art to be written since classical times”.


The first published study of Arretine ware was that of Fabroni in[27] and by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, German scholars in particular had made great advances in systematically studying and understanding both Arretine ware and the Gaulish samian that occurred on Roman military sites being excavated in Germany. Dragendorff’s classification was expanded by other scholars, including Sjgillata.

Loeschcke in his study of the Italian sigillata excavated at the early Roman site dragenddorff Haltern. Sigil,ata vessels, both plain and decorated, were manufactured at several centres in southern France, including BramMontansLa Graufesenque, Le Rozier and Banassac[30] from the late 1st century BC: Although the establishment of sigillata potteries in Gaul may well have arisen initially to meet local demand and to undercut the prices of imported Italian goods, they became enormously successful in their own right, and by the later 1st century AD, South Gaulish samian was being exported not only to other provinces in the north-west of the Empire, but also to Italy and other regions of the Mediterranean, North Africa and even the eastern Empire.

One of the finds in the ruins of Pompeiidestroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in August AD 79, was a consignment of South Gaulish sigillata, still in its packing crate; [31] like all finds from the Vesuvian sites, this hoard of pottery is invaluable as dating evidence.

South Gaulish samian typically has a redder slip and deeper pink fabric than Italian sigillata.

Terra sigillata – Wikipedia

The best slips, vivid red and of an almost mirror-like brilliance, were achieved during the Claudian and early Neronian periods Claudius, reg. AD 41—54; Nero, reg. At the same period, some workshops experimented briefly with a marbled red-and-yellow slip, a variant that never became generally popular.

But many new shapes quickly evolved, and by the second half of the 1st century AD, when Italian sigillata was no longer influential, South Gaulish samian had created its own characteristic repertoire of forms. The two principal decorated forms were Dragendorff 30, a deep, cylindrical bowl, and Dragendorff 29, a carinated ‘keeled’ shallow bowl with a marked angle, emphasised by a moulding, mid-way down the profile.

The footring is low, and potters’ stamps are usually bowl-maker’s marks placed in the interior base, so that vessels made from the same, or parallel, moulds may bear different names. The rim of the 29, small and upright in early examples of the form, but much deeper and more everted by the 70s of the 1st century, is finished with rouletted decoration, [33] and the relief-decorated surfaces necessarily fall into two narrow zones.

These were usually decorated with floral and foliate designs of wreaths and scrolls at first: Small human and animal figures, and more complex designs set out in separate panels, became more popular by the 70s of the 1st century.

Larger human and animal figures could be used on the Dr. In the last two decades of the 1st century, the Dragendorff 37, a deep, rounded vessel with a plain upright rim, overtook the 29 in popularity.

This simple shape remained the standard Gaulish samian relief-decorated form, from all Gaulish manufacturing regions, for more than a century. A local industry inspired by Arretine and South Gaulish imports grew up in the Iberian provinces in the 1st century AD.

Terra sigillata hispanica developed its own distinctive forms and designs, and continued in production into the late Roman period, the 4th and 5th centuries AD. It was not exported to other regions. Production had already begun at Lezoux in the Augustan period Augustus, reg.

Though it never achieved the extensive geographical distribution of the South Gaulish factories, in the provinces of Gaul and Britainit was by far the most common type of fine tableware, plain and decorated, in use during the 2nd century AD.

The quality of the ware and the slip is usually excellent, and some of the products of Les Martres-de-Veyre, in particular, are outstanding, with a lustrous slip and a very hard, dense body.

Vessel-forms that had been made in South Gaul continued to be produced, though as the decades passed, they evolved and changed with the normal shifts of fashion, and some new shapes were created, such as the plain bowl with a horizontal flange below the rim, Dr. Mortariafood-preparation bowls with a gritted interior surface, were also made in Central Gaulish samian fabric in the second half of the 2nd century Dr.

There is a small sub-class of Central Gaulish samian ware with a glossy black slip, though the dividing line between black terra sigillata and other fine black-gloss wares, which were also manufactured in the area, is sometimes hazy.