Adding to John W. Hayes`s Late Roman Pottery. Late Roman Light-Colored Wares with champlevé decoration from Histria revisited

Cercetări Arheologice 29.1, 2022, 287-316

Adding to John W. Hayes`s Late Roman Pottery. Late Roman Light-Colored Wares with champlevé decoration from Histria revisited

Authors: Ioan C. Opriș


Late Roman Light Coloured dishes, champlevé decoration, Byzantine silverware, Sasanian silverware, second half of the 6th – early 7th c. AD


This paper is presenting the very little-known late version of a specific ceramic class, i.e. the Late Roman Light-Colored Ware (LRLCW, in Turkish Açık Renkli Seramikler). It was introduced in the literature by John W. Hayes during the 1960s, following the excavations from Saraçhane/ St. Polyeuktos Church in Constantinople and resumed in his fundamental work, Late Roman Pottery (1972). Regarding the production area, J.W. Hayes postulated and continued to consider a South Aegean origin of the ware, in Knidos (Caria). Both recent finds and macroscopic features of the fabric might actually indicate the northeastern Aegean and (or) the southern shores of the Propontis,between Pergamon and Cyzicus. LRLCW is a ware characterized by a fine-textured, pale fabric, mostly cream or orange, and was produced between ca AD 420-450 and the early decades of the 7th century AD.

The late version of LRLCW included high-footed dishes of quite different sizes. Their maximum diameter oscillates between 13-36 cm. The specific decoration of the plates is a typically champlevé one (in Turkish, they are called Kazıma-Kabartılı Seramikler), heralding a Middle-Byzantine ware from the end of the 12th – 13th century. The catalogue included 30 pieces and a modern forgery from Odessos (nowadays Varna, Bulgaria). The latter is actually a copy of an ancient unidentified original. The known finds came from Constantinople, Nicaea, Zeitinliada and Parion, in the Propontis, from Methymna in Lesbos, from Pergamon, Allianoi, Sardis, Laodicea ad Lycum, and, finally, from Antiochia ad Orontem and Porphyreon, in the Eastern Mediterranean. Three more pieces werefound in Histria and belong to contexts that could be dated during the last decades of the 6th century – early decades of the 7th century AD. The findspots were a street in the so-called ”Cetate” Sector and the northeastern annex of the Bishop’s basilica in Histria. In our opinion, it is most likely that such unusual tableware piggybacked the marble trade. The latter meant semifinished or finished pieces supplied along with specialized stonecutters from the Propontis (Proconnesus) or North Aegean, either for the Bishop’s basilica or for other churches of the city.

The decorative repertoire is very diverse: venationes and venatores that remind the Sasanian Royal Hunt, wild beasts and mythological figures, religious scenes, all enclosed by secondary, repetitive geometric or vegetal patterns. Every dish is a unicum and all were made by highly skilled craftsmen. Besides the Sasanian artistic influences, the inspiration was offered by the Early Byzantine silverware (vasa argentea) from Constantinople. Late LRLCW with champlevé decoration seems to be a regional response to the large African ceramic plates that start reconquering the Eastern Mediterranean, the Aegean and the capital subsequent to the Justinian’s victory over the Vandals in AD 533-534. Typologically, they synthesized the high ring foot of ARSW Hayes 89-90 and someof the distinctive features of the large ARSW Hayes 104-105 dishes, produced and marketed during the 6th – first half of the 7th century.

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How to cite: Ioan Carol Opriș, Adding to John W. Hayes`s Late Roman Pottery. Late Roman Light-Colored Wares with champlevé decoration from Histria revisited, Cercetări Arheologice, Vol. 29.1, pag. 287-316, 2022, doi:


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