Roman Amphorae: a digital resource

University of Southampton, 2005 (updated 2014)

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Dr David Williams
Dept of Archaeology
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University of Southampton (2014) Roman Amphorae: a digital resource [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Tunisian fabric

Fabric Visual Characteristics

The normal Tunisian fabric is brick red or orange in section (2.5YR 6/6), hard fired, granular, and the external surface has a white or cream (10YR 8/3) skin resulting from the use of saline water. This is often smoothed with quite carefully smoothed (so-called 'steccature' : vertical tooling marks on the body). Material from the Carthage region is similar to central Tunisian products but is generally red in colour and lacks the visible inclusions of limestone or white reaction rims which are a common feature of the latter. It is very difficult to distinguish between known kiln products. The only ones that are easily recognisable come from Sullecthum (Salakta) and are characterised by a grey and red fracture, a myriad of small white inclusions, and a rough, grey external surface.

Fabric Petrological Characteristics

North African fabrics are rather generic and poorly distinguishable from each other. In general, the inclusions are composed mainly of quartz, whose aeolian features are evident in the coarser grains (some hundred microns to more than 1 mm in size), that show a rounded shape and opaque surfaces. Sometimes the quartz is associated with variable amounts of calcareous microfossils and limestone fragments and other occasional metamorphic or volcanic components. However, the study of several Tunisian productions (mainly based on kiln wasters) has revealed the existence of some variability in the textural characteristics and the accessory petrographic components of the fabrics that allow them to be identified at the sites to which they were imported (Bonifay et alli, 2002; Capelli, 2005). 1) Sidi Zahruni The matrix is iron-rich and homogeneously oxidized. The (natural) temper is moderately to poorly-sorted. The lower granulometric fraction (< 0.15 mm) is abundant and composed of angular quartz and calcareous microfossils. The 0.2-0.3 mm fraction, moderately abundant to scarce, is formed by subangular to rounded (aeolian) quartz grains and subordinate microfossils. The coarser inclusions (1-2 mm across and more) are composed of micritic limestone and quartz-sandstone fragments, rare aeolian quartz grains, and angular iron-rich (limonitic?) fragments. 2) Sullechtum (Salakta) The matrix is iron-rich and more or less oxidized (brick-red to brown-grey in colour). The temper is abundant and well-sorted, with dimensions generally in the range 0.15-0.30 mm (max. dimensions < 1 mm across). The silt fraction is scarce. The inclusions are mainly composed of calcareous microfossils, limestone fragments, quartz grains (mostly rounded in shape), and rare volcanic elements (clinopyroxene and plagioclase grains and basaltic rock and glass fragments). 3) Henchir ech Ckaf The matrix is iron-rich, more or less oxidized and sometimes partially vitrified. The inclusions are in general moderately abundant and poorly-sorted. They are mainly composed of quartz grains with dimensions in the range 0.4-0.6 mm (max. dim. up to 1-1.2 mm across). Most of them are subangular, but some of the coarser individuals are rounded in shape (typically aeolian). Other subordinate or occasional components are: calcareous microfossils; feldspar, mica, clinopyroxene and other heavy mineral individuals (fine-grained); limestone, policrystalline quartz, quartz-sandstone and limonitic fragments (coarse-grained). 4) Jerba The matrix is iron-rich and sometimes partially vitrified. The inclusions are abundant and mainly fine-grained (< 0.1 mm across). They are composed of quartz grains (up to some hundred microns in size), microfossils and subordinate heavy mineral and mica individuals. The percentage of micas is scarce, but greater than in the majority of African fabrics. Claudio Capelli

Amphora made from this fabric


i Keay 57

i Keay 59

i Africana 2B Grande

i Africana 2B Pseudo-Tripolitanian

i Africana 2C Grande

i Africana 2D Grande

i Africana 3A

i Mau 35

i Dressel 2-4 African

i Leptiminus 1

i Leptiminus 2

i Sidi Jdidi 1

i Sidi Jdidi 2

i Spatheion 1

i Spatheion 2

i Uzita 52, 10

i Con Orlo a Fascia

i Carthage Early Roman 4

i Ostia 23

i Ostia 59

i Van der Werff 1

i Van der Werff 2

i Van der Werff 3

i Vindonissa 592

i Keay 61 A, B & D

i Keay 61C

i Keay 55

i Keay 56

i Keay 27

i Keay 34

i Keay 35A

i Keay 35B

i Africana 1 Piccolo

i Africana 2A Grande

i Keay 36

i Keay 40

i Dressel 30 - Tunisian Variants

i Keay 51

i Keay 62A, D & E

i Keay 62Q & R

i Africana 3B

i Keay 8A

i Keay 8B

i Africana 3C