Here you can find out about the different types of pottery found at Roman Vindolanda and Roman Magna; where they come from and what they were used for.

Pottery was an important part of daily life in the Roman times, many pots for cooking, eating and drinking would have been made out of ceramic materials. This meant there was a lot more of these containers around and they are breakable so we find quite a bit of pottery across Roman sites.

Just like today there were styles and patterns that came and went in fashions and sometimes people would mark their pottery with the name of the maker, making it a really useful tool for dating.

Samian Ware (Terra Sigillata)

Samian ware is a type of fine ware but it was so popular (the most common high quality pottery from Roman Britain) and easily recognisable that it is normally separated out from other fine table wares. Samian is fine, hard, and has a glossy red colour to its outer.  Some are plain and on these we often find stamps with the maker's name on the base. Some are decorated with various patterns such as animals, gods, gladiators, mythical beasts, flowers and foliage and here the maker's hid their stamps in the decoration. They are found in varying sizes and designs, or forms, including bowls, dishes and cups.


Amphorae (plural) were big storage jars used to transport and store all kinds of things such as wine, olive oil and fish sauce and more. These tended to be used only once and so it is one of the most common types of pottery found at Roman sites because they throw a lot of it away when done with it and more is shipped in with the food and drink deliveries.


Mortaria (plural) would be used for grinding herbs and making sauces. They are thick bowls that have a large rim that can be used as a handle around the edge and a spout to pour from. Inside you often find grit pressed into the surface to make it rough and speed up the grinding process. Mortaria sometimes have stamps on the rim which can help us work out where the pot is from and date it.

Fine table ware

Fine wares were the more formal and high class pottery that was used by Romans for formal occasions and was used to serve food on the table. The fine ware was delicate and had thin walls and were often much more decorative as they were for display. Some had a glossy surfaces.

Coarse ware or Cooking pots

Coarse ware, were hard working pots that were roughly made and was used for different purposes like cooking, carrying liquids and, if you couldn't afford fine ware, eating. The quality was low and the product had thick walls to withstand rough use in kitchens and other places. These items of pottery were cheaper and they were usually not decorated and were simple and more functional in design. 


Tiles are used for lots of different things around a Roman settlement for building hypocaust systems, roofs, chimney flues and floors. They can even be crushed up and used in a special cement called opus signinum - it turns pink because of the tiles! You can see it in the bath house at Vindolanda. We often find tiles during our excavations and sometimes they come with unintended extras such as animal prints, or graffiti. We like these ones particularly although the Roman tile maker wouldn't have been very impressed!