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Characterization of clays and the technology of Roman ceramics production

  • Letizia Ceccarelli (a1), Maurizio Pietro Bellotto (a2), Marco Caruso (a3), Cinzia Cristiani (a2), Giovanni Dotelli (a2), Paola Gallo Stampino (a2), Giuseppina Gasti (a2) and Luca Primavesi (a2)...


The recent discovery of a Roman ceramics manufacturing workshop at Montelabate (Perugia, Italy), in use from the first century BC until the late-fourth to fifth centuries AD, offers a unique opportunity to study the technical processes for producing Roman amphorae. Ancient and modern clays were sampled and analysed; they do not differ significantly, supporting the hypothesis of the exploitation of the rich local clay source that allowed a continuity of production. Characterization of the clays was performed using geotechnical methods (Atterberg limits and size distribution) and by thermogravimetric and differential thermogravimetric analysis, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence analyses. The material was suitable for pottery making with the addition of calcite and quartz sand temper. Production waste and discarded materials as well as good-quality products were also analysed with the same methodology. It is therefore possible to reconstruct the ancient technology by defining the recipe for the production of the amphorae and their firing temperature on the basis of the decomposition of clay materials and the presence of newly formed minerals.


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Guest Associate Editor: N. Fagel

This paper was originally presented during the session: ‘CZ-01 – Clays for ceramics’ of the International Clay Conference 2017.

(Present address: Politecnico di Milano, CMIC – Dipartimento di Chimica, Materiali e Ingegneria Chimica ‘G. Natta’, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci 32, I-20133 Milano, Italy)



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