Roman Amphorae: a digital resource

University of Southampton, 2005 (updated 2014)

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

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Dressel 1

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Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1 Dressel 1
Campanian 'Black Sand' fabric


Equivalent to: CAM AM 1 of the National Roman Fabric Reference Collection (Tomber & Dore, 1998: 88)

Visual characteristics

This is especially distinctive in the hand-specimen as the fabric appears to contain much 'black sand' - caused by the presence of dark green augite crystals (Peacock, 1971: Fabric 2). This distinctive fabric has been sourced to the area around the bay of Naples, and is especially associated with the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii (Peacock, 1977d; see also Williams, 2005). However, one must be careful when dealing with undiagnostic bodysherds since the same fabric is also used for Dressel 1A, Dressel 1B, Dressel 1C, Dressel 2-4 Flat-based and the Campanian almond-rimmed type.


Thin sectioning shows frequent subrounded grains of green and colourless augite, together with quartz and sanidine feldspar, and lesser amounts of volcanic rock and glass fragments, brown hornblende, biotite and yellow-brown garnet (Peacock, 1971; 1977d).
Dressel 1 fabric


Equivalent to: ITA AM 1 of the National Roman Fabric Reference Collection (Tomber & Dore, 1998: 97)

Visual characteristics

This type was made in several regions of Italy, and elsewhere, so there is consequently some variability of fabric amongst vessels. Small undiagnostic bodysherds may also present problems as similar fabrics were often used for Dressel 1, Dressel 2-4, Camulodunum 139 and the later Campanian almond-rimmed type. As a general rule, Italian Dressel 1 amphorae often appear in a rough, sandy fabric, fairly thick-walled and commonly light pink (5YR 8/4) to light red (2.5YR 6/8) in colour. However, one of the most distinctive fabrics visually and petrologically is the 'Black Sand' fabric (separately described) associated with the bay of Naples region, especially around the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the hand-specimen it appears to contain frequent inclusions of "black sand", caused by the presence of small, very dark green rod-like shiny crystals of augite and associated volcanic material.


Thierrin-Michael (1990b; 1992) has made a petrological study of the main Italian production centres for Dressel 1 and Dressel 2-4 situated along the volcanic tract of the Tyrrhenian coastal area from Tuscany to the bay of Naples. She has produced detailed quantitative petrological descriptions to enable the characterization of the main groups: Fondi, Mondragone, Garigliano, Cales, Cosa, Minturno, Dugenta, Falerno, Eumachi (Pompeii), Albinia and Rosignano Marittima. The products of these centres can be distinguished from each other by the ratios of different non-plastic constituents in the clay of the vessels. In particular: (1) volcanic to non-volcanic, (2) sanidine to clinopyroxene, and (3) discrete volcanic minerals to volcanic rock fragments. The main characteristics of each centre are as follows: (A) Little volcanic material: Rosignano - serpentine. (B) High carbonate plus silica: Cales - volcanic + sanidine Garigliano - clinopyroxene + sanidine. (B) Carbonate voids: Albinia. (C) High silica: Fondi - very high silica. Cosa - more clinopyroxene than sanidine. Mondragone - more sanidine than clinopyroxene. (D) High volcanic material: Falerno - more sanidine than pyroxene. Dugenta - with carbonate, sanidine and clinopyroxene. Eumachi - no silica and more clinopyroxene than sanidine. The petrology of Dressel 1A made in the Tarragona region of north-eastern Spain is quite different to the Italian fabrics described above. Examples from here contain frequent, generally well-sorted subangular quartz grains normally under 0.40mm in size, together with small irregular pieces of cryptocrystalline limestone or reaction-rims surrounding voids which once held limestone, some chert, quartzite, flecks of mica and a little fine-grained argillaceous material (Carreté et al, 1995).