Evidence for Regional Trades in Game Pies and Potted Meats, using Petrologically Distinctive Hand-made Coarse Pottery as “Brands of Location” – Ian Longhurst

Archaeology has found a persistent low level of hand-made pottery even in large Roman urban centres, like Carthage[1]. Analysis of source materials indicates that some of this pottery travelled considerable distances. Given Roman economic conditions, this hand-made pottery appears to be “irrational” in its means of production and transportation. Wheel-made pottery ought to have driven this material out of the market.  There exists an ethno-archaeological model, which sees this pottery as surplus domestic production marketed to islands of the market economy by largely self-sufficient poor peasants who lived primarily in a non-market economy. In this model, the pottery travels empty and in its own right.

The present paper refutes the previous model and argues that the pottery contained cooked game, which carried a price premium sufficient to make the distribution economically rational. In this model, access in the major cities to game from remote regions is an indicator of the integration of the developed Roman economy. The primary function of this cheap pottery was as a “brand” to verify the source of the contents. Marketing of cooked meats in sealed jars required an organised response to maintain quality standards and avoid the danger of the fake goods ruining the market. Hand-made pottery using petrologically distinctive fabrics signalled that the contents came from highly specific locations, most famously Black Burnished Ware 1 (BB1) came from Poole Harbour. Knowing the location of the pottery allows us to predict the contents of the pots and make testable predictions about the organics preserved in the fabric. Some wares represent the seasonal exploitation of dense migrating wild resources e.g. BB1 migrating wildfowl trapped in Poole Harbour, Pantellerian Ware contained migrating small passerine birds trapped on the island, Dales Ware contained potted salmon and sea trout ascending the Trent. Some other wares represent the products of hunting of boar and deer e.g. Malvern Ware and Central Gaulish Coarse Micaceous Ware. Aspects of food technology that allowed for the safety of these products will be addressed.


[1] D.P.S.Peacock 1982: 75 Pottery in the Roman World Longman Harlow

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One response to “Evidence for Regional Trades in Game Pies and Potted Meats, using Petrologically Distinctive Hand-made Coarse Pottery as “Brands of Location” – Ian Longhurst

  1. Ian Longhurst

    I have revised my view on the predominant contents of Pantallerian ware. This contained quail rather than passerines. Ian Longhurst

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