Week 3: Roman pottery

Duck cup

Duck cup

This is part of a Lower Nene Valley ware beaker, from south-east England. It was made in the third century. This kind of pottery was used widely for drinking cups at Wallsend, but this pot is unusual because of its decoration – ducks are very, very rare: usually there are dogs chasing deer or hares, or there are plant scrolls.

Broken pieces of pottery are one of the most common finds on archaeological excavations of Roman sites. Unless the pots are complete, however, most of this pottery will never be seen in a museum display and will be kept as ‘bulk finds’ hidden away in the stores. In fact, the pottery can provide more information about the site than most of the pretty objects on display.

Different types of pottery

Roman pottery was used for many different things, so there were many different shapes and sizes of pots.


Flagons were used for serving liquids
such as water, wine or beer.

Beakers were used for drinking
liquids such as water, wine or beer

A mortarium was used for grinding up food such as herbs. 

Some pots were used for boiling water or
cooking over an open fire. 

The Challenge: decorate your own Roman pot

Roman pottery could also be decorated in many different ways.

Look at these four different styles of decoration on pieces of pottery found at Segedunum.

You can print the pot templates out, or try copying the shape and then add the patterns.  Download the templates here

Crambeck parchment ware

This is a piece of a bowl. Crambeck parchment ware is a Romano-British type of pottery which was made in Crambeck in North Yorkshire at the end of the 4th Century AD. It is the latest pottery we can date from Segedunum. It is usually painted with a red clay ‘slip’ decoration. A slip is a thin layer of fine clay particles.

Can you complete the pattern on this pot? 

Horningsea pottery

This is a piece of a storage jar from Horningsea in Cambridgeshire. It was decorated by running a comb through the wet clay before it was put in the kiln.

Can you complete the pattern on this pot? 

Hunt scene with Barbotine decoration

This piece of pottery has been decorated with a hunting scene. The pattern has been made by piping soft clay onto the pot. This is called Barbotine decoration. It is just like icing a cake!

Can you complete the decoration of this pot?

Nene Valley Ware


This is a piece of Nene Valley ware. It was decorated by holding a tool against the surface of the clay as it was turned on the wheel, before the pot was put into the kiln. This makes a stamped pattern.

Create your own design

Make your own

Can you design and make your own pot inspired by these Roman patterns? Draw your design on the pot template, download here

You could use:

  • Modelling clay or Play-Doh
  • An old tub or jar
  • A paper cup
  • Pens, crayons, paint
  • Glue and scissors

Share your creations

Remember to share your creations with us. Tag us on Twitter at @SegedunumFort, use the #Seggyathome hashtag, or post them on our Facebook page.