PEPP - Program of Work

The study of the Palatine East pottery assemblage has had a long and complicated history, with periods of intense work by a sizable team interspersed with periods of substantially scaled-back activity due to fluctuations in the availability of funding and the amount of time and effort that the directors were able to devote to the project.

During the period 1990-1994, when the Palatine East excavations were in progress, JTP served as the project’s pottery specialist, assisted by Gregory Mele and Eric De Sena, with occasional help from members of the project’s finds processing and excavation teams, including towards the end of this period both VMM and JPI.

During the years in which excavation was undertaken the pottery team’s primary tasks included the processing of the newly excavated material and the initial evaluation of the pottery in each context (stratigraphic unit) for the purpose of determining its general nature and the date of its deposition so that this information could be communicated to the project director, the field director and the sector supervisors in a timely fashion.  The pottery team was also able to devote a substantial amount of time and effort to the classification and quantification of the materials in contexts judged to be of greater interest.  This involved the sorting of the material by class (ware) and its quantification by sherd count and weight, with the data entered in a database in Paradox 3.  As part of this work the amphora body sherds were classified by general fabric group, quantified by count and weight and set aside for discard. (This material was employed to backfill the trenches on the Palatine East site.)

For the 1993 and 1994 field seasons additional specialists joined the pottery team for short periods of time and a start was made on the detailed characterization and documentation of specific classes of pottery.  These included Tana Allen, who worked on the terracotta lamps, Leslie Meachem, who worked on the Eastern Mediterranean amphoras, Elizabeth Peña, who worked on the early medieval pottery, Robin Schinke, who worked on the African amphoras, and Sarah Wisseman, who worked on the Italian Sigillata.  In association with this work profile drawings were produced for a substantial number of specimens by the Palatine East’s team of illustrators and a more modest number of these items were photographed by the project’s photographer (at that time, of course, using a film camera).

In 1991 JTP undertook a program of compositional analysis (in collaboration with Pamela Vandiver of the Smithsonian Institution) that involved 25 specimens of Late Imperial Glazed Ware and 4 specimens of Glazed Fineware.  This project, which was concerned with elucidating the provenience and glaze technology of these classes, included the neutron activation analysis of all 29 specimens at the National Institute for Standards and Technology/Smithsonian Institution facility and the electron microprobe analysis of the glazes of a small subset of these in the Smithsonian Institution Department of Geology.  During the period 1993-1995 a program of neutron activation analysis involving 200 specimens was undertaken in collaboration with the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign.  The aim of this project was to investigate the local and regional sources of the supply fine-bodied pottery manufactured in marine and similar clays, and the bulk of the specimens analyzed accordingly consisted of examples of Fineware, Color-Coat Fineware, Glazed Fineware, Tiber Valley Red-Slip Ware (then termed Roman Red-Slip A ware), and Roman Red-Slip B Ware, along with tiles manufactured from eight specimens of Rome-area clay (Clays 086-093 in the CFC project) and a few specimens of Italian Sigillata and Eastern Sigillata C included for comparative purposes.  Two articles were published reporting the results of this work (De Sena et al 1995; Wisseman et al. 1995)

Following the conclusion of excavations in 1994 a study season was organized for the summer of 1995.  During this season JTP focused on working up for publication the pottery from context A (105), a deposit of ca. 500 kg of predominantly in-phase material deposited ca. AD 300.  This work was intended to serve as a pilot project that would involve the elaboration and testing of the set of methods that would be employed for the detailed characterization, quantification and publication of the entire site pottery assemblage. (Peña 1998)

After this final season of the Palatine East excavations the various members of the pottery team continued working on subsets of the material on an individual basis.  JTP continued his work with the A (105) pottery, eventually publishing this as a monograph. (Peña 1999)  JPI undertook a study of the African Cookware, completing his licentiate thesis on this material at the University of Oulu (Ikäheimo 199X) and publishing the results of this work as a monograph. (Ikäheimo 2003)  VMM undertook a study of the Hispanic amphoras, completing his MA thesis on this material at the University of Missouri, Columbia. (Martínez 1999)  Finally, De Sena worked on the Fineware, with a particular focus on the compositional analysis of this, completing his MA thesis on this material at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. (De Sena 1997)

In 2001 JTP obtained substantial funding from both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for work on the Palatine East pottery assemblage and launched the Palatine East Pottery Project.  This funding supported study seasons in the summers of 2001, 2002 and 2003 by a sizeable team composed of JTP, VMM, JPI and for the most part graduate students from JTP’s then home institution, the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and JPI’s then home institution, the University of .Helsinki  This involved the development and implementation of a detailed and comprehensive set of protocols for the characterization and documentation of the materials based on JTP’s work on the A (105) materials (that included the quantification of the material by sherd count, weight, estimated number of vessels, and estimated vessel equivalents), the creation of a new project database in Microsoft Access, the initiation of an extensive program of petrographic analysis and a shift to digital photography.  At this time the decision was made to limit the scope of the project to the Roman-period pottery, as there were neither the resources nor expertise to treat the substantial amount of medieval and post-medieval material in the site assemblage,  During these seasons substantial progress was registered on the characterization, documentation, and quantification of several classes of pottery, including Italian Sigillata, African Sigillata, Tiber Valley Red-Slip Ware, Fineware, Color-Coat Fineware, Roman Red-Slip B, Glazed Fineware, West-Central Italian Cookware, and the Italian amphoras. (Ikäheimo and Peña 2009)  The funding from the NEH also provided for a laboratory assistant at the University at Buffalo for the 2002-2002 and 2003-2003 academic years (James McCaw and Amanda Liens, respectively), who worked on data archiving, the analysis and documentation of thin sections and the calculation of amphora capacities and produced a project website.

Following the 2003 study season there was another substantial hiatus in work on the material.  JPI, however, obtained major funding for his work from the Finnish Academy for the period 2003-2005 and completed the study of the West-Central Italian Cookware.  As part of this work he developed a method for the tracing of profile drawings and production of finished digital drawings using Adobe Illustrator.  JTP spent limited periods of time in Rome during the summers of 2005-2008 (for some periods assisted by one or two students) and advanced the documentation of the African Sigillata and Italian Sigillata and the drawing of several classes.  He also introduced two new methods for the quantification of the material: the calculation of manufacturing cost and, for amphoras, the calculation of vessel capacity. (Peña and McCaw 2007)   VMM also managed to spend periods of time in Rome during the period after 2003 and continued his work with the Italian amphoras.

With his move to the University of California, Berkeley in 2009, JTP gained regular access to research funding and beginning in 2011 it was possible to reinstitute regular summer study seasons by teams of a moderate size.  These have been composed of JTP, VMM, in some years JPI, and graduate and undergraduate students from his and VMM’s home institutions.  This work saw the introduction of the use of a DinoLite digital microscope for the evaluation and documentation of fabrics and the adoption of a streamlined approach to the production of profile drawings linked to the shift to digital technology for the production of finished drawings.  In 2015 JPI undertook pilot projects that involved the characterization of Hispanic and Italic amphora fabrics by means of x-ray fluorescence and the production of 3-D digital models of stamped amphora handles by means of a structured light scanner.  During this period substantial progress has been registered on the documentation of several classes, including the Italian Sigillatas, Gallic Sigillatas, Eastern Sigillatas, Thin-Walled Ware, Fineware, Color-Coast Fineware, Slip-Decorated Fineware, Roman Red-Slip B, Volcanic-Tempered Ware, African Utilitarian Ware, Italian amphoras, African amphoras, and sherd disks.

During the period 2010-2016 the UC Berkeley Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) has also made it possible to carry out a substantial amount of work on the UC Berkeley campus during the academic year.  This has included the editing of manuscripts, data archiving, the production of digital profile drawings and the preparation of materials for hosting on the new RES ROMANAE website.  VMM, supported by a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the period 2012-2014, initiated a program of research involving the construction of 3-D digital models of the Hispanic and Italian amphoras in AutoCad and the calculation of the capacity of these.

Looking ahead to the hosting of the project’s results on the RES ROMANAE website, in 2015 JTP (along with Nicolas Terpcevich of the UC Berkeley Archaeological Facility) obtained funding from the Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities at Berkeley Research Grant Program for the development of a data visualization tool based on the Harris Matrix that will be employed for the on-line presentation of the PEPP data.

At the time of writing (October, 2016), the main classes of material that still require substantial work are the African amphoras, the Eastern Mediterranean amphoras and the unclassified amphoras.  The PEPP team’s work during the planned 2017 study season will focus on these.


For each of these study seasons the PEPP team consisted of the following individuals:

2001: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Janne Ikäheimo, Katri Arminen, Anu Hartta, Sibyl Hill, Adam Hyatt, Kimmo Kylönen, Amanda Liens, Myles McCallum, Elizabeth Peña, Samantha Scaringe, Arlene Vespa.  PEPP 2001 Team

2002: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Janne Ikäheimo, Adam Hyatt, Amanda Liens, Samantha Scaringe, Arlene Vespa.  PEPP 2002 Team

2003: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Janne Ikäheimo, Laura Sokoloski, Jamie Erenstoft, Samantha Scaringe, Laura Busch.

2011: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Samantha Alford, Emily Booker, Sarah Houser.  PEPP 2011 Team

2013: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Jennifer Black, Jason Greenwald, Angus Leydic.  PEPP 2013 Team

2014: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Jennifer Black, Holly Kane, Jayd Lewis.

2015: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Janne Ikäheimo,, Jennifer Black, Kanako Imaizumi, Mackenzie Davis, Xochitl Pérez.  PEPP 2015 Team

2016: J. Theodore Peña, Victor Martínez, Jennifer Black, Arlene Vespa, Mackenzie Davis, Amanda Dobrov,Samantha Lloyd-Knauff.  PEPP 2016 Team