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Papers and notes on aspects of the pottery found in the frontier region.



Foundation deposits            Holed vessels



Foundation deposits


Complete pots are sometimes found buried in Roman
buildings, having been deliberately included as foundation deposits during construction or concealed when a building
was adapted for a new use. They (and their contents)
could have been included as gifts to bring good luck or prosperity to the new building, or to protect the building
or its occupants from evil, including the envy of other people living nearby, or perhaps as offerings to the guardian spirit who protected the local area.


There are five examples from Arbeia Roman Fort.


1. Grey ware small cooking pot/beaker, with rough stone lid (early third century).

2. Local oxidised ware beaker, with a sherd as a lid (late third / early fourth century).

3. Oil flask (late third / early fourth century).

4. BB2 cooking pot, found with animal bones inside it. Built into a wall (early third century)

5. BB2 small cooking pot / beaker, deliberately holed. Built
into air-vent in wall (late third / early fourth century).



Four of the five are small vessels, as has been noted at other sites with similar deposits. Four of the pots were buried during the construction of the floors of buildings, and were fully hidden from view. Two others were built into walls, one hidden in an air-vent when it was blocked when a granary was converted into a barrack. The small size of most of the vessels and the types involved suggest they contained a liquid offering, although the large cooking pot had some animal bones in it.



Holed vessels

Four or five vessels from Arbeia Roman Fort have been deliberately holed before their deposition. One comes from a foundation deposit, and the other four from the cemetery.


1. Small cooking pot/beaker. Third-century foundation deposit.
2. BB2-allied fabric cooking pot. Possibly used to hold a cremation (third century).
3. Poppy-head beaker. An accessory vessel for a late third or fourth century inhumation burial.
4. Crambeck reduced ware beaker. An accessory vessel, probably from an inhumation burial (late third or fourth century). The deliberate hole has been filled by a lead plug.
5. Crambeck reduced ware beaker. This was deliberately broken before it was put in the grave, but it may possibly have been holed first.


It would take some skill to hole the pot without breaking it. All the holed vessels at Arbeia come from ritual deposits, and it is possible they were being ritually ‘killed’ so that they can enter the spiritual or underworld alongside the dead person. Alternatively it may have been ‘sacrificed’ in the same way that animals were killed during religious ceremonies as offerings to the gods.


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