During excavations along the A2 Pepperhill to Cobham road-scheme in Kent, a team from Oxford Archaeology discovered three high-status Roman-period cremation burials, dated to the mid 1st century AD. The graves contained almost 40 ceramic vessels between them. These comprised dining wares – finely-made cups, plates, beakers and flagons – that had either been imported from north-east France (Gaul) or made locally but copying the imported forms.

From stamps inside some of the vessels, we know the names of the potters who made the vessels. There is Bentio (or Benio), Carevir, Iantasio, and Tarva, among others. The local copies had also been stamped, and remarkably these show that the potter Bentio/Benio had migrated from Gaul to Kent to set up a workshop. Analysis of oils, resins and waxes (lipids) surviving on two of the flagons and a cup revealed traces of birch bark tar, used to seal the vessels in readiness for a liquid, most plausibly wine. Statistical analysis of the assemblage showed that the burials fit within the tradition of rich graves recorded in Colchester, Verulamium (St Albans) and elsewhere, and presumably were the resting-places of high-ranking individuals.

The findings of the pottery analysis, as well as those of the investigation as a whole, were published by OA in 2012 in the monograph, A Road Through the Past, available from Oxbow Books.

 


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