African Sigillata 1

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

This class, which has elsewhere been termed terra sigillata chiara A, sigillata africana A , African Sigillata A, and African Red Slip (ARS) A, consists of a wide array of tableware forms, chiefly bowls and dishes, but also thin-walled beakers and closed forms of various kinds.  It has a fine, gritty, or coarse light red or red body that to the naked eye displays either no visible inclusions or rare calcareous bodies.  Vessels belonging to this class usually have a light red to red slip on all surfaces in the case of open forms and the exterior surface only in the case of closed forms.  This is generally identical to or just slightly darker in color than the ceramic body with a luster that ranges from highly glossy to matte.

In Atlante I Carandini and Tortorella divided African Sigillata A into three subclasses: sigillata Africana Sigillata A1,  a chronologically early grouping that displayed a smooth surface covered with a glossy slip; African Sigillata A2, a chronologically late grouping that displayed a rough surface covered with a thin, matte slip; and Africana Sigillata A1/2, an intermediate or transitional grouping.  This classificatory scheme has been employed by most scholars through to the present.

No production sites have been identified for Afrcan Sigillata 1 and its precise point of origin remains unknown.  Various scholars have posited an origin somewhere in northern Tunisia, basing their arguments on distribution, fabric, chemical composition, and affinities with Africana Sigillata 5 (D), and this inference has been widely accepted.

Examples of some of the early forms in the sequence have been recovered at Pompeii, and it seems likely that production of African Sigillata 1 commenced at some point between ca. 60 and 75 CE.  Its manufacture clearly continued into at least the third quarter of the third century CE and probably into the first quarter of the fourth century CE.

The Palatine East assemblage includes 1049 fragments of African Sigillata 1 that weigh a total of 8019 grams and derive from at least 292 vessels.  These materials were assigned to 21 forms and 29 form variants and to four fabric variants, termed African Sigillata 1 Fabric Variants 1, 2, 3, and 4.  African Sigillata 1 Fabric Variants 3 and 4 appear to equate fairly well with Africana Sigillata A1, while Variants 1 and 2 appear to equate fairly well with African Sigillata A2, with specimens of the latter two variants that display a glossy rather a slightly glossy or matte slip perhaps corresponding to Africana Sigillata A1/2

These materials shed little light on the function or chronology of this class, although they do suggest that examples of some open forms were on occasion employed for cooking and are compatible with the continued export to and use of this class at Rome in the late third or early fourth century CE.

Bibliography: 
Hayes 1972, 18-55, 173-200; Atlante I, 19-52, 141-147; Schuring 1988, 4, 7-8, 13, 14-15, 17-18, 24, 25, 26-39, 40-41, 46, 49-51, 51-52; Lund 1995, 475-485, 541-542; Camilli 1995, 24-25; Bonifay 2004, 45-48; Serrano Ramos 2005, 228-235; Mackensen and Schneider 2006, 168-173, 179, 180; Ben Moussa 2007, 37-42.