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Hartlip Roman villa samian

Submitted by Jacob Scott on 16 November 2023

Samian ware from Hartlip Roman villa

Curator Andy Ward highlights another element of the temporary exhibition at Maidstone Museum The Story of the KAS due to finish at the beginning of December.


#MuseumMonday post Mon, 13 Nov 2023


When Hartlip Roman Villa was uncovered by William Bland Esq. in the 19th century a large quantity of Samian Ware was recovered from within the rooms.

Samian Ware or terra sigillata as it is commonly known on the continent is a well-fired, red pottery used as tableware throughout the 1st to mid-3rd centuries AD. Samian ware is a common find on many Roman sites, and most importantly for the archaeologist, it has standardised features which allows pottery specialists to compare forms from different areas. Products from Italy were carried as far as India in the East and Britain in the west while Gaulish factories produced wares as far south as Meroë in the Sudan, to the Baltic States in the north, whilst also appearing in almost all of the provinces of the Western Empire.1

KAS 129.2- Samian ware cup, form 27, with stamp BITURIX.F; Samian ware.

Samian pottery vessels were first studied in depth by Hans Dragendorff in 1895-96 who attributed form numbers to different shapes of vessels. The forms found at Hartlip and on display in our temporary exhibition were: Form 18 (AD 50-100), Form 27 (AD 50-150), Form 18/31 (AD 90-150), and a Form 36 (AD70-230).2 Except for form 27 which is a shallow cup, all of the vessels on display are shallow dishes.

KAS 135.1- Plain Samian ware dish, form 18/31, with potters stamp MARTIALIS.

While these vessels are mostly undecorated except one which features barbotine leaves, a key piece of information that is found is that of the manufactures name. Most stamps are found on the base interior as is the case here, but sometimes they can be found amongst decoration, the vessels’ rim, or footrings.3 Form 36 vessels were invariably produced without a central stamp.4 The potters we have here are: BITURIX.F, L.R.SECVN, and MARTIALIS.

KAS 133- Samian ware dish, form 36. No stamp and decorated with eight Barbotine leaves.

Please do visit Maidstone Museum to see these in person!


  • 1Ed., Biddulph, Edward (2014) 'Illustrating Samian Ware', Study Group for Roman Pottery, Samian Working Group.
  • 2P.A Tyers (1996, 2014) 'Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery.', Gallery of Terra sigillata forms - sorted by typology:
  • 3Ed., Biddulph, Edward (2014) 'Illustrating Samian Ware', Study Group for Roman Pottery, Samian Working Group.
  • 4Drs Steve Willis & Elizabeth Blanning, Pers Comm.