Full scale reproduction of Terra Sigillata ware. Experiments and archaeological experience
M. Madrid, J. Buxeda i Garrigos (Material Culture and Archaeometry (ARQUB), University of Barcelona, Barcelona), O. D. Benson and E. Aloupi ( authentics )

The study of ancient Terra Sigillata ware, one of the most popular and widely distributed ceramic types in roman antiquity, enabled the identification of their technological characteristics related to this fine ware production, i.e. the raw materials used, firing structures, firing temperatures and firing processes. Thanks to a recent research project, a study on this ancient pottery has been carried out by using analytical techniques. The methodology focused on the analysis of archaeological material and raw clays, while experiments conducted in the laboratory allowed the identification of suitable raw materials, techniques and procedures to enable full scale high quality reproduction of terra sigillata.

The analytical methodology was mainly based on the combined use of X-Ray Fluorescence, X-Ray Diffraction and analytical Scanning Electron Microscopy. As a result, different practices applied by the ancient potters for producing Hispanic Terra Sigillata were identified which seem to be directly related to the quality of the products. The experiments for the full scale reproduction of fine quality terra sigillata ware involved the use of fine calcareous clays (in the order of 10% CaO) for the body which was formed in moulds or in the potter's wheel and fine illitic clay-paints for the red gloss, with subsequent firing under oxidizing conditions at high temperatures.

For the decorated shapes, the use of plaster moulds incorporating the lip and the foot facilitated the process. In view of the idea that Terra Sigillata was made by pressing the clay into the moulds while using the potter's wheel, we proceeded with the production of ceramic moulds bearing incised decorative motifs. The application of the slip and subsequent firing was not as simple as expected to be. The paper discusses the failures encountered with respect to the data from the analysis of the original artifacts and the prevalent archaeological assumptions for the production of terra sigillata ware.

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