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Romano-British Face Pots and Head Pots*

  • Gillian Braithwaite (a1)
Extract

Face pots and head pots which, while never common, were clearly much more widely used in Roman Britain than the number of surviving whole vessels might lead one to believe, are among the most attractive and least documented products of the Romano-British pottery industries. Face pots, with their crude, barbaric, rather comic-looking features stuck incongruously on a well-made Roman jar, are quite unlike any other type of Roman pottery, where free-hand figurative decoration is practically unknown. Head pots, with their contrived hair styles and naturalistic features, are more classical-looking and more acceptably ‘Roman’, and yet they seem to be a purely insular development, found only in the remote province of Britain and with no obvious close counterparts anywhere else in the Roman Empire except perhaps in North Africa. The purpose of this article is to outline the development of these two types of vessels in Britain and to make a preliminary attempt to define the regional groups that evolved, with a brief reference to the earlier and parallel developments on the Continent, and finally to discuss, in the light of the meagre evidence available, what might have been their function and possible significance.

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References
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1 I should be most grateful for details of any other face or head pots from sites not mentioned on the map.

2 Kalicz, N. and Makkay, J. in Jeno, F. and Jones, M. (eds.), Actuelle Fragen des Bandkeramik (1972), 104, fig. 7: Ia.

3 Broholm, H. C., Danske Oldsager IV, Yngre Bronzealder (1953), 377–95.

4 Montelius, O., La Civilization Primitive en Italie vol. II (1895), pl. 222–4.

5 Baume, W. La, Die Pommerellischen Gesichtsurnen (1963).

6 Glob, P. V., Acta Archaeologica viii (1937), 202 ff, figs. 37 and 38.

7 Laet, S. J. De, La Necropole Gallo-Romaine de Blicquy (1972), 37.

8 Oelman, F., Die Keramik des Kastells Niederbieber (1914), 73.

9 Wedlake, W. J., Excavations at Camerton (1958), 199, fig. 48: 600.

10 Swann, V. G. in A. C. and Anderson, A. S. (eds.), Pottery Research in Britain and North West Europe, B.A.R. 123 (1981), 129.

11 ibid., 149, note 8.

12 G. Webster and M. J. Darling, unpub. info. 1982.

13 Darling, M. J. in Dore, and Green, (eds.), Roman Pottery Studies in Britain and Beyond, B.A.R. 30 (1977), fig. 6, 4: 18.

14 Brassington, M., Antiq. Journ. li (1971), fig. 11: 254.

15 Round, A. A., Trans. South Staffs. Arch. Soc. (1980), 111.

16 Atkinson, D., J.R.S. xxii (1932), 33, fig. 6.

17 Swann, V. G., op. cit. (note 10), 123.

18 Jones, D. M., Excavations at Billingsgate, L. & M.A.S. Special Paper (1980), fig. 30: 206.

19 C. Evans, unpub. info. (1981).

20 V. Maxwell, unpub. info. (1983).

21 Hull, M. R., Roman Colchester (1958), 285.

22 Hull, M. R., The Roman Potters Kilns at Colchester (1963), 159, 169.

23 S. Greep, unpub. info. (1982).

24 Gentry, A. et al. , Trans. London & Middlesex Arch. Soc. xxviii (1977), 143, 148.

25 Green, M. J., Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies xxix (1980), 174.

26 This apparently unpublished, complete face pot is in the Cambridge University Museum.

27 V. Rigby, unpub. info. (1982).

28 The Museum of London has the largest collection of face pots and sherds in the country after Colchester, almost none of which have been published.

29 Toynbee, J. M. C., Art in Britain Under the Romans (1964), 405.

30 J. Shepherd, unpub. info. (1981).

31 Lemmon, C. H. and Hill, J. Darrell, Sussex Arch. Coll. civ (1966) pl. iv: A.

32 Briscoe, G., Proc. Suff. Inst. Arch. Soc., xxvii (1958), 176.

33 Swann, V. G., op. cit. (note 10), fig. 8: 14.

34 Green, C., East Anglian Arch. v (1971), 31.

35 Darling, M. J., Lincoln Arch. Trust Annual Report (1980-1981), 28; B. Gilmour, unpub. info. (1982).

36 White, A. J., Britannia xii (1981), pl. xxiv: B.

37 May, T., The Roman Pottery in the York Museum (1909), pl. xiii; Addyman, P. V.. Antiq. Journ. liv (1975), fig. 9 : 12.

38 Petch, J. R., Journ. of Chester Arch. Soc., xxx pt ii, (1933), 38, pl xiv: 43.

39 Green, M. J., Small Cult Objects from the Military Areas of Roman Britain, B.A.R., 52 (1978), pls. 107 and 108.

40 A. Bell, unpub. info. (1982).

41 Watkin, W. T., Roman Lancashire (1893), 186.

42 G. D. Marsh, unpub. info. (1983).

43 Ross, A., Pagan Celtic Britain (1967), pl. 38: a, b and c.

44 Smith, G. H., Britannia ix (1978), 31, fig. 19: 40.

45 Jeff Taylor, unpub. info. (1982).

46 P. Austen, unpub. info. (1982).

47 Bievelet, Le Chanoine, Latomus xxviii (1957), 327, pl. C : 6.

48 Green, M. J., op. cit. (note 39), pl. 102.

49 ibid., pls. 104, 106, and 109.

50 Robertson, T., P.S.A.S. cv (1972/1974), 285.

51 Miller, S. N., The Roman Fort at Balmuidy (1922), pl. 1: 28 and 29.

52 Goodburn, R., Britannia x (1979), 285, pl. xv: 6.; P. Turnbull and J. Evans unpub. info. (1982).

53 Mellaart, J., The Neolithic of the Near East (1975), 118, fig. 69.

54 One of the best collections of these Attic and Etruscan polychrome vases is in the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York. The Ashmolean also has several examples.

55 Köln, I, I, Führer zu Vor und Frühgeschichtlichen Denkmälern, Bd. 37/1 (1980), 82–3, fig. 1.

56 This vase is in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, No 27, 31. The face vase illustrated in Déchelette, J., Vases Ornées de la Gaul Romaine, vol. ii (1904), pl. x: 3, with no scale given, is in all likelihood another of these rare perfume bottles.

57 Harrison, E., Athenian Agora, vol. i, (1953), 66, pl. 47: d. There is a good example of these head vases in the British Museum. Professor Henry S. Robinson believes they are ‘to be connected in some way with the Athenian practices of the “ephebeia”’ (unpub. info. 1983).

58 A large number of these vessels are in the Loeffler Collection in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Köln, and several are also in the Louvre. Two or three are featured in Musées et Collections Archéologiques de l'Algérie et de la Tunisie (1890-1928), but these seem to be less common and are possibly earlier types.

59 R.C.H.M., Eburacum (1962), 92.

60 Wenham, L. P., The Roman Cemetery at Trentholme Drive (1968), 84, fig. 33: 9.

61 R.C.H.M., op. cit. (note 59), figs. 54 and 71 and pl. 29.

62 P. Scott, unpub. info.; Current Archaeology v, no. 8, 24.

63 Bruce, I. Collingwood, Descriptive Catalogue of Antiquities at Alnwick Castle (1880), 150.

64 M. J. Darling, unpub. slide.

65 Arch. Ael. (3rd Series) iii, ii (1906), frontispiece.

66 Dickinson, J. and Wenham, L. P., York Arch. Journ. xxxix (1956-1958), 313, fig. 9: 29.

67 Oswald, F., Trans. Thoroton Soc. xxxi (1956), 55.

68 M. J. Darling, unpub. info. (1982).

69 S. M. Elsdon, unpub. info. (1982).

70 Woolley, T. C. S., Trans. Thoroton Soc. x (1906), pl. 4 : II.

71 Roberts, W. I. IV, Romano-Saxon Pottery, B.A.R. 106 (1982), 122–6.

72 Corder, P., Antiq. Journ. xvii (1937), 405.

73 Green, M. J., op. cit. (note 25), pl. iii; V.C.H., Hunts, (1926) pl. iii: 3. This head pot is now in the Cambridge Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology.

74 Potter, T. W., B.M. Occ. Papers (1982), no. 297; Roberts, W. I., op. cit. (note 71), D. 39. 7; the sherd from Brettenham is in the Norwich Museum, Acc. no. 145. 966.

75 Hull, M. R., op. cit. (note 21), fig. 59.

76 Warren, J., Proc. Suff. Inst. Arch, i (1853), 78.

77 Woolley, T. C. S., op. cit. (note 70), pl. 4: 10.

78 Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc. iii, 250.

79 Watkin, W. T., op. cit. (note 41), 186.

80 Frere, S. S., Verulamium Excavations, vol. I (1972), fig. 125 and 132.

81 S. Greep, unpub. info. 1982.

82 Williams, V. E. Nash, Archaeologia lxxx (1930), 229.

83 Smith, G. H., op. cit. (note 44), 31.

84 Briscoe, G., Proc. Suff. Inst. Arch. xxvi (1957), 80 and op. cit. (note 32), 176.

85 Rigold, S. E., Arch. Journ. cxxvi (1961), 99, fig. 6 : II.

86 Ross, A. in Coles, J. M. and Simpson, D. D. A. (eds.) Studies in Ancient Europe (1969), 278.

87 Richardson, K. M., Archaeologia xc (1944), 117, fig. 16: 12.

88 The Museum of London face pot (Acc. no. 18302) was found in a pit behind the Guildhall, (FIG. 6: 4).

89 P. Turnbull and J. Evans unpub. info. 1982.

90 M. J. Darling, unpub. info. (1982) and op. cit. (note 35), 27.

91 Hull, M. R., op. cit. (note 21), 137.

92 B. Walters, unpub. info. (1981).

93 Green, M. J., op. cit. (note 25), 175.

94 R. Pollard, unpub. info. (1982).

95 Green, M. J., op. cit. (note 25), 181.

96 Penn, N. S., Arch. Cant. lxxvii (1962), 121, fig. 4: 3 and 4.

97 Oswald, F., op. cit. (note 67), 55.

98 P. Scott, unpub. info. (1982).

99 Warren, J., op. cit. (note 76), 78.

100 M. R. Hull, unpub. notes.

101 Ross, A., op. cit. (note 43), 339.

102 Schumacher, K. in Altertümer Unseren Heidnischen Vorzeit V (1911), 347.

103 P. Turnbull, unpub. info. (1982).

104 Richmond, I. A., Arch. Ael. (4th Series) xxi (1943), 127.

105 Leach, J., Arch. Ael. (4th Series) xl (1962), 35; Southwark Excavations 1972-4 (1978), 369, fig. 166, no. 1273.

106 Ludowici, W., Stempel-Namen, und Römischer, BilderTöpfer in Rheinzabern, Kat. V (1927), 275, K 25.

107 Amand, M. in Actes du Colloque International d'Archéologie, Rouen, (1978), 165.

108 ibid, 168.

109 This vessel is in the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles.

110 Elsdon, S. M., Stamped Iron Age Pottery, B.A.R. 10 (1975), figs. I and 2.

111 Rodwell, W. in Arthur, P. and Marsh, G. (eds.), Early Fine Wares in Roman Britain, B.A.R. 57 (1978), fig. 7: 1.

112 Roberts, W. IV, op. cit. (note 71), pls. 51–4.

113 R.C.H.M., , op. cit. (note 59), 92.

* This paper originally formed part of a B.A. Dissertation on West Roman Face Pots, Face Beakers, and Head Pots, presented at the Institute of Archaeology in London in 1982. I would like to thank all those who took the time and trouble to answer my letters, and who have done so much to provide the background to this paper; and I would like to express my particular gratitude to the following for their help, advice and encouragement: my tutor, Dr Richard Reece, Mr Peter Scott, Maggi Darling, Mr Paul Austen, Professor John Wilkes, Dr Graham Webster, and my husband Rodric. I would also like to thank the staff and directors of the following museums for allowing me access to their collections: the British Museum (Prehistoric and Roman Department), the Museum of London, the museums at Verulamium, Colchester, Norwich, Ipswich, Malton, Wroxeter and Carlisle, the Moyses Hall Museum, Bury St Edmunds, the Cambridge Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology, the Yorkshire Museum, the Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and the Grosvenor Museum, Chester.

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