A Pascual 1 Roman Amphora from Catalonia from the sea at Saint Alban's Head Ledge, Dorset, England
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology © 2013 The Nautical Archaeology Society
International Journal of Nautical Archaeology
Volume 42, Issue 1, pages 193–196, March 2013
How to Cite
Parham, D. and Fitzpatrick, A. P. (2013), A Pascual 1 Roman Amphora from Catalonia from the sea at Saint Alban's Head Ledge, Dorset, England. International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 42: 193–196. doi: 10.1111/j.1095-9270.2012.00368.x
- Issue published online: 4 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013
On the 19 July 1994 the upper portion of an amphora was recovered by the Alderney fishing boat Royal Escape whilst long-lining off St Alban's Head, Dorset (Fig. 1). It was recovered among a considerable amount of modern rubbish that her lines had picked up from the sea-bed; this was being discarded overboard by the crew when the amphora was noticed by her skipper, Ray Gaudion, who rescued it from a crewman who was about to throw it over the side. Mr Gaudion retains possession of the amphora.
The vessel consists of the upper two thirds of an amphora which had the rim broken off some time ago (Fig. 2). A clean break at its lower edge was presumably caused when the long line broke it free of the sea-bed. The upper part of the amphora is covered in marine life, mainly barnacles, with the lower part being clean of growth. The inside of the vessel is coated with a black organic lining with marine growth present in the lower horizontal half, stopping in a distinct line above which the lining is thicker and clean of any growth.
The amphora contained wine and was made in Catalonia, north-east Spain. The vessel is in Williams Fabric 1 (Williams, 1981; Peacock and Williams, 1986: 93–5). The black lining on the interior is likely to be the remains of the resin or pitch with which wine (and other) amphoras were lined.
The absence of the rim makes it impossible to decide with certainty whether the amphora is a Pascual 1 manufactured between the 40s BC and AD 20 (and possibly later), which contained c.25 litres of wine, or a Dressel 2–4 (Fig. 3). The Dressel 2–4 superseded the Pascual 1 but their manufacture overlapped, perhaps into the earlier first century AD, and the Dressel 2–4 continued to be made to c.AD 80. Dressel 2–4 contained a little more wine; c.26 litres. As Dressel 2–4 made in Catalonia usually have a pronounced carination at the shoulder, the rounded profile of the upper part of this vessel suggests that it is more likely to be a Pascual 1 (Fitzpatrick, 2003: 13–14; López Mullor and Martín Menéndez, 2006, 2008: 698–701; Comas and Carreras, 2007).
Both types of amphora are well known in central southern England, but the Pascual 1 is found more often and is a relatively frequent find on Iron Age sites in Dorset, notably around Poole Harbour (Fig. 1, Fitzpatrick, 1991; Revilla and Carreras, 1993: 75–7, figs. 2–3; Carreras, 2000: 124–7) and on the Isle of Wight (Trott and Tomalin, 2003: 167, fig. 13). The Pascual 1 is found more frequently than the Dressel 2–4 in north-western France (Galliou, 1987; Miró, 1988: 123–44, 135–8, 161–2, mapa 6–7), by which route most of the finds in England probably arrived, and elsewhere in northern Europe (for example Remesal and Revilla, 1991). In north-western Europe Pascual 1 are found most frequently in Augustan contexts. This would also suggest that the amphora from St Alban's Ledge is more likely to date to the British Iron Age (pre-AD 43) than the Romano-British period.
Marine growth and environment
St Alban's Ledge is a rocky reef extending 8 km south-west from a headland of the same name. It rises steeply from a shell/chalk/gravel bottom with a general depth of 40 m, with holes down to 60 m and up to 16 m. Positioned at a right angle to the general water flow, it presents a 40 m wall of water moving at a maximum of 4¾ knots with a 25-m-high rock wall. The result is rapid vertical currents moving up and around the reef with eddies forming overfalls at the surface. The UKHO Channel Pilot considers the area to be a danger to small craft.
The majority of the barnacles on the amphora are approximately a month old and lived on top of two or three layers of other dead juveniles. There are a few specimens that are two to three months old on the amphora's underside. This growth pattern demonstrates that the upper part of the amphora has been uncovered in the past to project from the sea-bed at an angle of 30°.
The number of layers indicates that this uncovering occurred periodically, and for long enough for juvenile barnacles to establish themselves but not long enough for them to reach any age. This will have occurred during a short period in the spring when juvenile barnacles colonized surfaces uncovered by winter storms, which were then covered over again in the calmer summer months. A single adult barnacle is located on the uppermost handle, so either a small part of the surface has been uncovered for a period of at least two years, or this individual has migrated from another adjacent, uncovered surface. Worm-casts present on the outer surface show that the amphora was lying on a sand and shell bottom.
Finds of Roman amphoras in British waters are rare, for example the Haltern 70 from near the Isle of Wight (Varoqueaux, 1964; Harmand, 1966; Parker, 1992: 218–19, no. 521), which might be of Iron Age date, or the London 555 from Pan Sand in the Thames Estuary off the north Kent coast (Sealey and Tyers, 1989). Although some hulks of Roman date are known from Britain (for example Nayling and McGrail, 2004), the evidence for vessels carrying amphoras is slight (Dean, 1984; Parker, 1992; Walsh, 2000), and only the small number of 3rd-century amphoras from the Little Russell wreck at St Peters Port, Guernsey are certainly associated with a vessel (Monaghan and Rule, 1993).
However, the amphora from St Alban's Ledge is not the only find of a Catalonian amphora that may be of Iron Age date from Dorset waters. In the 19th century, probably in the 1880s, an amphora was found in the Wey Backwater, the outlet of the River Wey in Weymouth (Damon, 1890). The amphora was described as being found eight feet (c.2.4 m) below the surface of the channel and so it may represent ancient portage rather than an amphora trawled up in modern times and then discarded in the harbour.
Originally suggested to be a Dressel 1 (Peacock, 1971: 180; Fitzpatrick, 1985: 323), the amphora is Catalonian, and in Williams Fabric 2 (Williams, 1981; Peacock and Williams, 1986: 93–5). Although its rim is missing, the rounded shoulder of the vessel suggests that it is a Pascual 1 rather than a Dressel 2–4. The basal spike is stamped with the letter ‘P’. This stamp occurs on both Pascual 1, examples of which have been dated to 30–5 BC, and Dressel 2–4 (Miró, 1988: 23–4, 307, stamps 98–100; Pascual, 1991: no. 164; Revilla and Carreras, 1993: 85–6).
Other evidence from the immediate vicinity of St Alban's Ledge for cross-channel exchange in the British Late Iron Age includes a wide range of finds from Hengistbury Head in Christchurch Harbour, and Poole Harbour (for example Cunliffe and de Jersey, 1997; Markey et al., 2002; Taylor, 1998). The Late Iron Age hoard of metalwork found at Bulbury, 3 km north of Poole Harbour, also contains an iron anchor and chain (Cunliffe, 1972: 300–2, pl. liv, a, fig. 50).
Given the hazard of St Alban's Ledge, the possibility that the amphora was recovered from a wreck-site is very real, though whether of Iron Age (Muckelroy et al., 1978; McGrail, 1998: 236) or Roman type (cf. Boon, 1977a b) can be only a matter for speculation. The hazard formed by St. Albans Ledge must have been well known to mariners of the period and it seems unlikely, although not impossible, that a crew familiar with the area would have fallen foul of it. It is perhaps more likely that, if the amphora does come from a wreck, the crew of the vessel in question were unfamiliar with the area and sailed into the overfalls without realizing the danger that they were facing. If this were the case, then it is possible that any wreck would be of a vessel out of north-western France.
- 1977a, A Graeco-Roman anchor stock from north Wales, Antiquaries Journal 57, 10–30. ,
- 1977b, The Porth Felen anchor stock, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration 6, 239–242. ,
- 2000, Economía de la Britannia Romana: la importacíon de alimentos. Barcelona, Collecció Instrumenta 8. ,
- 2007, Les àmfores de la Laietània: estat de la qüestió, in A. López Mullor and X. Aquilué i Abadías (eds), La Producció i el comerç de les àmfores de la Provincia Hispania Tarraconensis: homenatge a Ricard Pascual Guasch, 177–188. Barcelona, Museu d'Arquelogia de Catalunya Monografies 8. and ,
- 1972, The Late Iron Age metalwork from Bulbury, Dorset, Antiquaries Journal 52, 293–308. ,
- 1997, Armorica and Britain. Cross-Channel relationships in the late first millennium BC. Oxford, Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph 45/ Studies in Celtic Coinage 3. and ,
- 1890, Roman amphora or wine jar, Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society 9, 88–90. ,
- 1984, Evidence of possible prehistoric and Roman wrecks in British waters, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration 13, 78–79. ,
- 1985, The distribution of Dressel 1 amphorae in north-west Europe, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 4, 305–340. ,
- 1991, Poole Harbour and Hengistbury Head, in P. W. Cox , and C. M. Hearne , Redeemed from the Heath: the archaeology of the Wytch Farm Oilfield (1987–90), 230–231. Dorchester, Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society Monograph 9. ,
- 2003, Roman amphorae in later Iron Age Britain, in J. Plouviez (ed.), Amphorae in Britain and the Western Empire, 10–25. Oxford, Journal of Roman Pottery Studies 10. ,
- 1987, Les amphores Pascual 1 et le commerce atlantique au 1er siècle avant notre ère, in C. Bémont , C. Delplace , B. Fischer , K. Gruel , C. Peyre , C. and J.-C. Richard (eds), Mélanges Offerts au Docteur J.-B. Colbert de Beaulieu, 379–388. Paris, Le Léopard d'Or. ,
- 1966, A propos d'un col d'amphore trouvé dans la Manche, in J. Heurgon , G. Picard and W. Seston (eds), Mélanges d'Archéologie, d'Épigraphie et d'Histoire offert à Jerôme Carcopino, 477–489. Paris, Hachette. ,
- 2006, Productions d'amphores gréco-italiques, Dressel 1, Lamboglia 2 et Tarraconaise 1 à 3 en Catalogne: typologie et chronologie, in L. Rivet and S. Saulnier (eds), Actes du Congrès de Pézenas, 25–28 mai 2006: productions, approvisionnements et usages de la vaisselle en Languedoc du Ier au IVeme siècle apr. J.-C., 441–460. Marseille, Société Française d'Étude de la Céramique Antique en Gaule. and ,
- 2008, Las ánforas de la Tarraconense, in D. Berna Casasola and A. Ribera I Lacomba (eds), Cerámicas hispanorromanas. Un estado de la cuestión, 659–724. Cádiz, University of Cádiz. and ,
- 1998, Ancient Boats in North-West Europe. The archaeology of water transport to AD 1500. London, Longman. ,
- 2002, Poole Harbour. An Iron Age port, Current Archaeology 16.1 (No. 181), 7–11. , and ,
- 1988, La producción de ánforas romanas en Catalunya: un estudio sobre el comercio del vino de la Tarraconense (siglos I a.C.—I d.C.). Oxford, British Archaeological Reports International Series 473. ,
- 1993, A Gallo Roman Trading vessel from Guernsey: The excavation and recovery of a third century shipwreck. Guernsey, Guernsey Museum Monograph 5. and ,
- 1978, A pre-Roman coin from Canterbury and the ship represented on it, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 44, 439–444. , and ,
- Nayling, N. and McGrail, S. , (eds), 2004, The Barlands Farm Romano-Celtic Boat. York, Council for British Archaeology Research Report 138.
- 1992, Ancient Shipwrecks of the Mediterranean and the Roman Provinces. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports International Series 580. ,
- 1991, Index d'estampilles sobre ámfores catalanes. Barcelona, Cuadernos de Arqueología 5. ,
- 1971, Roman amphorae in pre-Roman Britain, in M. Jesson and D. Hill (eds), The Iron Age and its Hillforts, 161–188. Southampton, Southampton University Monograph Series 1. ,
- 1986, Amphorae and the Roman Economy: an introductory guide. London, Longman. and ,
- 1991, Weinamphoren aus Hispania Citerior und Gallia Narbonensis in Deutschland und Holland, Fundberichte aus Baden-Württemberg 16, 389–439. and ,
- 1993, El vino de la Tarraconense en Britannia, Münstersche Beiträge zur Antiken Handelsgeschichte 12(2), 53–92. and ,
- 1989, Olives from Roman Spain: a unique amphora find in British waters, Antiquaries Journal 69, 53–72. and ,
- 1998, Late Iron Age ballast-quarries at Hengistbury Head, Dorset, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 17, 113–119. ,
- 2003, The maritime role of the island of Vectis in the British pre-Roman Iron Age, IJNA 32, 158–181. and ,
- 1964, Fragments d'amphore trouvés en mer au large de l'île de Wight, Annales de Normandie 14, 264–266. ,
- 2000, Roman maritime activities around Britain, what is the evidence and how might it be enhanced, in G. Fincham , G. Harrison , R. Rodgers Holland and L. Revel (eds), TRAC 99: proceedings of the ninth Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, 53–63. Oxford, Oxbow. ,
- 1981, The Roman amphora trade with Late Iron Age Britain, in H. Howard and E. L. Morris (eds), Production and Exchange: a ceramic viewpoint, 123–132. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports International Series 120. ,