Terra Sigillata

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Roman terra sigillata
Italian terra sigillata goblet Drag. 11 from Novaesium

Samian ware (TS) is the modern name of a particular category Roman tableware made of ceramics that towards the end of the 1st century. Was developed in Italian workshops ( Arezzo ). The upscale tableware was produced in large quantities in craft businesses ( manufactories ), which usually provided their goods with a manufacture seal. The goods were sold in various variations throughout the Roman Empire .


The dishes covered in glossy red are basically divided into smooth goods or vessels decorated with reliefs made with models . Both were made with the rapidly rotating potter's wheel, but the production of the relief-decorated goods was more complex. For the production mostly thick-walled bowls, so-called shaped bowls, were made. The inside was decorated with individual (positive) hallmarks. A so-called egg stick usually closes the decorated zone at the top. With picture bowls in South Gaul, edges with notched ornamentation are common. After the fire, numerous individual vessels could be shaped in a mold in which the decoration appears negative. The vessels designed in this way, especially bowls, were then turned (attaching the foot and shaping the edge).

The vessels received the smooth-walled glossy coating ( engobe ) in a leather-hard condition. To do this, they were dipped in very fine clay. The color of the coating varies between dark and orange-red, the latter is often characteristic of Rheinzabern Sigillata. It depends on the iron content of the clay and the various oxidation levels of the iron in the fired clay.

The vessels were oxidized in special ovens for about five days at temperatures of around 950 ° C. Disturbances in this process could result in high losses, which are well documented by the discovery of false fires at the manufacturing sites . The ovens had a reinforced threshing floor and a long poking channel. Fragments of pottery invoices from La Graufesenque near Millau in southern France show average furnace fillings with 30,000 vessels.


Three healing earth preparations from Germany, compressed into tablets and sealed by various manufacturers, 16. – 17. century
South Gallic Picture Bowl Drag. 29 with a tendril motif in the Römerhalle Bad Kreuznach
Bowl or bowl drag. 30 in the Antiquarium in Milan
Dragendorff plate 36 with barbotine decoration; 2nd century AD; Prehistoric and early historical collection in the Wallenfels'schen Haus in Gießen
Reconstructed furnace filling of a terra sigillata furnace in the museum in Rheinzabern
TS drinking cup (2 × Drag. 54, left, right glossy tone cup) from Metz, musées de la Cour d'Or
Terra sigillata vessels; 2-3 Century AD in the Wallenfels house
Picture bowls drag. 37 in the Saalburg Museum Bad Homburg v. d. H.

Sealing earth

In the medieval drug trade, terra sigillata referred to compressed and sealed healing earths in tablet form , which were based on fatty and heavy clay and were traded in several shades. The seals that are applied to the small shaped bales should authenticate the origin. The sealing earths differed in color, consistency, smell and taste and accordingly in the healing properties attributed to them. The most common remedies were soils from the Mediterranean region (for example Eritrea , Crete , Samos , Limnos and Malta ). The bolus armenicus, also traded as terra sigillata, originally came from Armenia .

In addition to healing earths from other places of production (for example the Geisloch near Münzinghof ), the sealing earth from the Silesian town of Striegau , now the Polish Strzegom in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship , achieved great fame in Europe under the name Terra sigillata Strigonensis and the place achieved a monopoly position with corresponding wealth. The Paracelsist Johannes Scultetus Montanus is considered to be the discoverer of the sealing earth in Silesia and its medical significance . The sealing earth was regarded as a miracle cure against almost all ailments, but especially as an antidote for poisoning . This was even verified by several German provincial princes in controlled studies on animals and humans, which is considered to be one of the first clinical studies . In two cases, dogs were poisoned by the mayor of Jülich and by Landgrave Wilhelm IV of Hessen-Kassel (whose personal physician Georg Marius published a paper on terra sigillata as a medicine in 1589 ), with one group also receiving the sealing earth and surviving, while the other dogs died (or in the last test a dog was saved by the sealing earth). Count Wolfgang II von Hohenlohe then had his doctors try out the sealing earth on a prisoner who also survived the poisoning. In addition to various other clays, Marius also examined a red and white earth that he found on the Königsstuhl near Heidelberg and called it "Bolus Heidelbergensis". Terrae sigillatae, especially imported during the Levant trade , were particularly popular as medicinal products in Europe, were accordingly expensive and were accordingly adulterated with local products or replaced by them (e.g. in the form of marl ).

Research history

The term Terra Sigillata was only transferred to ancient ceramics in the 18th century because of the potter's stamp. A name from ancient times is not certain. The term Samian Ware, used in the English-speaking world, comes from the mention of vasa Samia by Pliny the Elder , of which, however, it is not entirely certain whether it refers to TS. Research into the Terra Sigillata has a long tradition in archeology . The chronology is based primarily on the forms, as well as the manufacturer and picture stamp. The first chronological classifications come from Hans Dragendorff (1896) and Robert Knorr . In particular, the pottery stamps, the decorations and the distribution of the material have made TS a preferred means of dating in Provincial Roman archeology . The manufacturers are known by name from numerous production locations due to the manufacturer's stamp. In addition, there were observations at well-dated sites such as the Roman camp Haltern , the forts of the Odenwald Limes or the Niederbieber fort . The further use and molding of the hallmarks made it possible to determine the chronological order of the individual potters at the production sites. All of this has led to the fact that the time when a decorated or stamped TS vessel was manufactured can usually be dated to within a few years. Similar exact dates can only be achieved with coin finds or through dendrochronology , depending on the material found .

Vessel shapes

In addition to the hallmarks and potter's stamps, the shape of the vessel is also suitable for dating, as this depended on fashions and, for example, in the case of the TS mortars, on table manners. The current names of the vessel shapes mostly go back to well-known researchers (Dragendorff, Knorr, Déchelette ), or to sites (Haltern, Hofheim).

Italian terra sigillata

As an inexpensive imitation of metal vessels, glossy crockery was widespread in the Hellenistic Mediterranean area centuries before the emergence of the terra sigillata. The so-called Campana used in southern Italy , however, was fired in a reducing process and therefore predominantly black. First attempts with oxidizing fires are known in the case of the Eastern Sigillata from northern Syria. Around the middle of the 1st century BC A group of potters in Arezzo seems to have adopted this technique. The pottery quickly gained great popularity and was widely exported as the empire expanded.

South Gallic Terra Sigillata

Production came from Italy to the north-west provinces, initially to southern France. The earliest production took place at Lugdunum ( Lyon ) as a subsidiary of the Italian pottery. Soon afterwards, large pottery centers in southern Gaul formed, for example in Montans , La Graufesenque or Banassac . As in Lyon, they first made vessels based on Italian models, and then established their own shapes. The steep-walled Dragendorff 29 and 30 bowls are popular vessel shapes in South Gallic pottery; later, the Drag bowl was added to these ornate shapes. 37, which has a more rounded wall and the shape of Drag. 29 replaced. Ornaments often consist of tendrils and other floral motifs.

Central and East Gallic pottery

Production shifted closer to markets and rivers in the course of the 2nd century AD. Well-known production sites of the Central Gallic pottery were Lezoux , Vichy , Lubié and Toulon-sur-Allier . East Gaulish production centers were Lavoye , La Madeleine , Chemery , Mittelbronn , Blickweiler and Heiligenberg . The motifs on the picture bowls became livelier, and in addition to floral motifs, animals, hunting scenes, mythological or erotic depictions and gladiators can often be found.

In the 3rd century, production was dominated by the large companies in Rheinzabern ( Tabernae ) and Trier ( Augusta Treverorum ), which primarily had good transport options and raw materials. The Terra Sigillata Museum is dedicated to the production of Terra Sigillata in Rheinzabern , where numerous production finds are exhibited. The knowledge about the production of the hallmarks seems to have gradually been lost during this period. Their quality declines in the course of the 3rd century, as does that of the goods as a whole. The coating is often rubbed off on TS finds from the 3rd century. Frequent impressions make the shape of the counters more coarse. Instead of the hallmarks, so-called barbotine decoration is now often used - splashes of very finely muddy clay with which round plastic decorations were applied to the vessels. The emergence of TS grating bowls (with a spout and fine grits on the inside; mostly drag. 43 and 45) suggests a change in eating habits, namely the preparation of food at the table.

The East Gaulish production location Rheinzabern in the Palatinate had several branches established at the end of the 2nd century, which produced the so-called Swabian goods: in Nürtingen , Waiblingen and Stuttgart- Kräherwald. Further manufacturers east of the Rhine were in the provinces of Noricum and Raetia , z. B. in Pfaffenhofen am Inn and Westerndorf (Rosenheim) . In England only one TS manufacturer is known from Colchester .

Eastern sigillata

Late antique argon sigillata

In late antiquity, new workshops were set up in the Argonne , which no longer continued the model-shaped relief ornamentation, but applied simple roller stamp decorations directly to the vessels (wheel sigillata).

The late antique argon sigillata is the last major phase of sigillata production. The factories in what is now the Argonne region produced ceramic vessels from the 2nd century AD to the 4th century AD (in some cases even in the 5th century in Chatel-Chéhéry). The main production center of this phase was today's Lavoye. Decorated argon sigillata is different from the earlier terra sigillata, as it is no longer decorated with shaped bowls, but with so-called "rolling wheels". These scroll wheels are used when the clay is leather-hard to decorate the goods with decorative ribbons. The tools that were used for this were mostly made of flint or bone. Argon sigillata was made from Gault clay, which was greyish green to greyish blue in color.  

Late antique North African sigillata

In late antiquity, North African workshops in particular gained considerable importance, and their products, which are usually referred to as African Red Slip Ware (ARS), can occasionally also be found in the Rhineland and Britain. The decoration here consists almost entirely of medallions, which often show Christian scenes ( Good Shepherd, etc.). Even after Geiserich had conquered North Africa in 439, these goods were still produced and exported for decades. Research divides the African sigillata into further subgroups: Phocaean Red Slip (PRS), Tripolitanian Red Slip (TRS), Numidian Red Slip (NRS) and Egyptian Red Slip (ERS).

Imitation of the terra sigillata technique

The technology was already being imitated in Roman times, mostly without reaching the technical standard of the TS. Examples of such local imitations are the so-called marbled goods , Raetian varnish goods , Terra Nigra or frequent in the lower Main area Wetterauer goods .

In the area of ​​today's Switzerland, TS imitations defined by Walter Drack were widespread, which can be found particularly in Augusta Raurica, Vindonissa and Baden.

In 1906, the Bavarian art potter Karl Fischer received a patent for the reinvention of the terra sigillata production from the imperial patent office in Berlin. Today the ceramic handicrafts produce partly imitated Terra Sigillata vessels.

Introductory literature

  • Hans Dragendorff : Terra Sigillata. A contribution to the history of Greek and Roman ceramics. In: Bonner Jahrbücher. 96/97 (1895/96), pp. 18-155.
  • Felix Oswald , T. Davies Pryce: An introduction to the study of Terra Sigillata. Treated from a chronological standpoint. Longman, London et al. a. 1920 (Republished with a preface and corrigenda & addenda by Grace Simpson. Gregg, London 1966) (outdated in detail, but still the most comprehensive complete account of the Terra Sigillata).
  • Howard Comfort : Terra sigillata. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Supplementary volume VII, Stuttgart 1940, Col. 1295-1352 ..
  • Howard Comfort: Terra sigillata. In: Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica, Classica e Orientale . Supplemento , Rome 1973, pp. 803–834 (full text)
  • Barbara horse shepherd: The Roman terra sigillata pottery in southern Gaul. (= Small writings on the knowledge of the Roman occupation history of Southwest Germany. 18). Society for Prehistory and Early History in Württemberg and Hohenzollern, Stuttgart 1978.
  • Jochen Garbsch : Terra Sigillata. A world empire in the mirror of its luxury dishes. (= Exhibition catalogs of the Prehistoric State Collection. 10). Prehistoric State Collection, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-927806-05-6 .
  • Colette Bémont, Jean-Paul Jacob (eds.): La terre sigillée gallo-romaine. Lieux de production du Haut Empire: implantations, produits, relations. (= Documents d'archéologie française. 6). Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, Paris, 1986, ISBN 2-7351-0170-3
  • Bernard Hofmann: La ceramique sigillée. Editions Errance, Paris 1986, ISBN 2-903442-15-0 .
  • Pia Eschbaumer: Terra Sigillata. In: Thomas Fischer (Ed.): The Roman Provinces. An introduction to their archeology. Theiss, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8062-1591-X , pp. 267-290.
  • Manuel Thomas, Bernhard A. Greiner (Hrsg.): Punztype catalog of Roman Terra Sigillata. BAG, Remshalden 2005ff, ISBN 3-935383-44-4 .
  • Brian R. Hartley, Brenda M. Dickinson: Names on terra sigillata. An index of makers' stamps & signatures on Gallo-Roman terra sigillata (Samian ware). (= Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. Supplement 102). Institute of Classical Studies, London, 2008ff.
  • Bernd Liesen (ed.): Terra Sigillata in the Germanic provinces. Xanten Colloquium, 13.-14. November 2008. Zabern, Mainz 2011, ISBN 978-3-8053-4345-9 .


  1. u01151612502.user.hosting-agency.de ( Memento of the original from December 28, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / u01151612502.user.hosting-agency.de
  2. Rolf Heyers (1957), p. 62 f.
  3. Antoni Jonecko: Medical, Social and working conditions in the Silesian-Polish Poem, Officina ferraria 'Walenty Rozdzienski from the year 1612. In: Montan medicine and mining sciences. Hallesches Symposium 1986. Ed. By Wolfram Kaiser and Arina Völker, Halle an der Saale 1987 (= scientific contributions from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. 63, 23), pp. 87-102.
  4. ^ Karl Brunner: Silesian Terra Sigillata. In: Journal of the Association for Folklore 21, 1911, pp. 345–351.
  5. ^ Georg Marius: Terra sigillata. Report and research of the Precious Earth / which is sealed / different from others / to Artzney outside of the old natural science books and experience repeated [...]. Nikolaus Knorr, Nuremberg 1589.
  6. Alisha Rankin, Justin Rivest: Medicine, monopoly, and the premodern state - early clinical trials . New England Journal of Medicine 2016, Volume 375, Issue 2, July 14, 2016, Pages 106-109, doi: 10.1056 / NEJMp1605900
  7. ^ Georg Marius : Terra sigillata. Report and research of the precious earth / which is sealed / from others and different / to Artzney outside of the old natural history books and repetitions [...]. Nicolaus Knorr, Nuremberg 1589.
  8. ^ Rolf Heyers: Dr. Georg Marius, called Mayer von Würzburg (1533-1606). (Dental) medical dissertation Würzburg 1957, p. 62 f.
  9. Pliny, Naturalis historia 35, 160; Eschbaumer 2001, p. 274.
  10. ^ Hans Dragendorff: Terra sigillata. In: Bonner Jahrbücher. 96/97, 1895/96, pp. 18-155.
  11. ^ Robert Knorr: potters and factories decorated terra sigillata of the first century (Stuttgart 1919); ders .: Terra sigillata vessels from the first century with pottery names (Stuttgart 1952)
  12. ^ Siegmar von Schnurbein : The undecorated Terra Sigillata from Haltern. Soil antiquities of Westphalia 19 (1982).
  13. ^ Franz Oelmann : The ceramics of the Niederbieber fort. 2. Reprint of the Frankfurt am Main 1914 edition, Habelt, Bonn 1976.
  14. ^ Joseph Déchelette : Les vases céramiques ornés de la Gaule Romaine I-II (Paris 1934).
  15. ^ Emil Ritterling : The early Roman camp at Hofheim i. T. Nassauische Annalen 34, 1904, pp. 1-110; 397-423; Addendum in 40, 1912, pp. 1-416.
  16. ^ Frédéric Hermet: La Graufesenque (Condatomago) I-II (Paris 1934).
  17. Robert Knorr / Friedrich Sprater: The West Palatinate pottery from Blickweiler and Eschweiler Hof. Historisches Museum der Pfalz, Historischer Verein der Pfalz, Speyer, 1927.
  18. Robert Forrer : The Roman Terrasigillata pottery of Heiligenberg-Dinsheim and Ittenweiler in Alsace. (Stuttgart 1912).
  19. ^ Wilhelm Ludowici : Catalog V. Stamp names and pictures of Roman potters, Legion brick stamps, forms of sigillata and other vessels from my excavations in Rheinzabern 1901–1914. Jockgrim 1927; ders .: Catalog VI of my excavations in Rheinzabern 1901–1914. The picture bowls of the Roman potters from Rheinzabern. Panel tape. Edited by Heinrich Ricken, Darmstadt 1942; Heinrich Ricken: The picture bowls of the Roman potters from Rheinzabern. Text volume with type images for Catalog VI of the excavations by W. Ludowici in Rheinzabern 1901–1904. Edited by Ch. Fischer. Frankfurt 1963.
  20. Ingeborg Huld-Zetsche : Trier Reliefsigillata: Workshop I . Materials for Roman-Germanic ceramics 9 (Habelt, Bonn 1972); same: Trier relief sigillata: workshop II . Materials for Roman-Germanic ceramics 12 (Habelt, Bonn 1993).
  21. Georges Chenet: La céramique gallo-romaine d'Argonne du 4è siècle et la terre sigillée décorée à la molette . Mâcon 1941.
  22. Walter Drack: The Helvetian Terra Sigillata imitation of the 1st century AD In: Writings of the Institute for Pre- and Early History of Switzerland . tape 2 . Basel 1945.
  23. ^ "Terra Sigillata" as the biggest litter , short biography of Karl Fischer in the Sulzbach-Rosenberger Zeitung from November 5, 2010.
  24. Patent No. 206,395, Class 80b, Group 23; quoted from: Heinl, Rudolf; The Fischer family of potters from Sulzbach, Sulzbach-Rosenberg 1984.

Web links

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