North Devon in 100 Objects: 75. Roman Pottery from Brayford

Five fragments of roman pottery.

Roman pottery came to light at Brayford in the early 2000s. For years people digging their gardens had turned up lumps of heavy, knobbly material that they called ‘black ram’. In fact this is slag resulting from the smelting of iron. Its association with Roman pottery and the widespread occurrence of this industrial waste clearly showed that in the Roman period (AD43 to AD410) the now quiet village of Brayford had been an industrial centre where iron was extracted from ore mined on Exmoor, probably to supply the Roman army.

The pottery fragments are a small selection from one excavation site. They represent domestic wares used by the workers in the first and second centuries AD. These would have been local people with local roots but with long distance connections, because as well as exporting their industrial product they imported the materials of everyday life. The pottery comes from widespread sources, from South Devon, from Dorset, from      Gaul and from Spain. If ‘the Romans never came to North Devon’, their consumer goods certainly did!

Some of this pottery gives an insight into day-to-day working. The neatly cut off pieces of rim that look like large commas were probably used as ‘feet’ for standing vessels on, while the red Samian ware often has corners worn smooth and may have been used as a crayon to mark up batches for export (it makes a good red mark). These people were resourceful and perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from this ancient recycling!

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