African Sigillata 4

Identification: 
Class of gloss-slipped tableware assumed to be from southern Tunisia.
Overview: 

This class, which has elsewhere been termed sigillata africana C/E and ARS C/E, consists of a set of distinct, fairly thin-walled open forms with sharply-cut morphological features that display affinities with forms in African Sigillata 3 (ARS C).  These have a fine to slightly gritty, highly fired red body that displays sparse, small, white inclusions, and have a matte to slightly glossy red slip either on all surfaces or on the interior surface and the upper portion of the exterior surface.

No production sites have been identified to date, although its distribution is generally held to point to an origin somewhere in southern Tunisia.  This inference is bolstered by the fact that African Sigillata 4 displays certain points of technical/esthetic similarity with African Sigillata 6 (ARS E), which is also thought to have been produced in southern Tunisia on the basis of its distribution.  These include the execution of multiple bands of chattering on the rim and floor of some vessels and the practice of setting vessels on a layer of straw or some similar kind plant material for drying following forming and prior to slipping, producing impressions on the underside of the base (the latter a feature not present on any of the examples of either African Sigillata 4 or African Sigillata 6 in the Palatine East assemblage).  It seems possible that the two classes were manufactured by the same workshop or workshops or by workshops operating within the same regional technical/esthetic tradition, with African Sigillata 6 perhaps a successor to African Sigillata 4.  The fact that both of the specimens subjected to petrographic analysis contained rare grains of polycrystalline quartz may perhaps indicate broad areas within which this class is likely/unlikely to have originated.

The production of this class can be documented for a period of time extending from the second quarter of the third century CE to the second half of the fourth century CE (ca. 220/230-370/400 CE).

Bibliography: 
Atlante I, 117-8; Lund 1995, 486-8, 492-3, 522; Camilli 1995, 28; Bonifay 2004, 51.