South-Western black burnished ware jar

This jar was used for storing or cooking food. It is made from a type of pottery that archaeologists call South-Western black burnished ware (or South-Western BB1). The name comes from this pottery’s colour and its burnished, shiny surface.

The Exeter: a Place in Time (EAPIT) project has recently carried out research on the Roman pottery from Exeter. This research has identified that this type of pottery was made in the Blackdown Hills in Devon. A similar type of pottery called South-East Dorset BB1 was made near Poole and is also found in Exeter.

South-Western BB1 had a larger regional distribution than was formerly apparent, and its importance is emphasised by the extent to which it was exported to 2nd- and earlier 3rd-century military sites in northern Britain. This pottery has been found at sites either side of the Bristol Channel, at Carlisle and along Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall. The distribution is concentrated in north-west England and the east–west corridors of the two Walls and is presumably the result of the ware being included in cargos transported up the west coast from ports on the south side of the Bristol Channel. It might have travelled overland from the Blackdown Hills.

The mineralogy of the South-Western BB1 is comparable with Bronze and Iron Age wares from East Devon, a potting tradition that continued into Roman times. Occurrences of paler grey-buff to orange, weakly to moderately oxidised surfaces beneath the black slip suggest that the waxy textured black coating was applied as a slip after an initial firing. It seems likely that surfaces were burnished at the leather-hard, pre-firing stage.

Object Summary

Accession Loan No.
Collection Class
Exeter archaeology
Collection Area Region
Northern Europe
Collector Excavator
Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit
potterySouth-Western Black burnished ware
Common Name
South-Western black burnished ware jar
Simple Name
Period Classification
Roman (43-410)

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South-Western black-burnished ware jar