VM_365 Day 179 Déchelette and a samian beaker from Minster

Photo: Lloyd Bosworth, University of Kent
Photo: Lloyd Bosworth, University of Kent

The image for VM_365 Day 179 shows sherds of a second samian ware beaker found at the Roman villa, Minster (see previous VM 365 Day 175).

As with Day 175’s vessel this is a type known as Déch. 64, after the French archaeologist Joseph Déchelette who complied a study of decorated samian ware made in Roman Gaul which remains an important publication to this day.

This autumn has seen the 100th anniversary of his death: Déchelette was killed in October 1914 during the early campaigning of the First World War as the French Army fought the Germans in the Aisne Valley, in southern Picardy. Although over 50 he was a captain and combatant. His contribution to archaeology is being marked in several ways including a special exhibition at Mainz RGZM Museum.

Several samian ware forms are named and numbered still following his catalogue. Form 64 is rare and so to have found two such drinking beakers at one site on Thanet is an indicator of the status of the villa and its occupants. The precise detail of the shape of this beaker type can vary as the drawings of complete examples (from Oundle and Colchester) shown here demonstrate.

Oswald and Pryce 1920, Plate XXI
Oswald and Pryce 1920, Plate XXI

The beaker from VM Day 175 has a more obvious bead to its rim and its appearance is more orange whereas this second beaker is more cherry red. These sorts of details can help us with dating these vessels. Day 175’s beaker probably dates to the Trajanic – early Hadrianic period, whereas this one is slightly later (Hadrianic). Perhaps this later example was a replacement for the earlier one, or the villa owner wished to create a pair. The decoration shows a chase scene, evidently hunting dogs pursuing a hare. The images on these beakers take us directly to the Classical world and remain as fascinating to us today as they did to Déchelette in his time.

Dr Steve Willis, University of Kent


Oswald, F. & Pryce, T.D. 1920. An Introduction to the Study of Terra Sigillata. London.

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