Black-burnished ware

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A selection of pottery found in Roman Britain. The two black vessels shown at the back left are of black-burnished ware

Black-burnished ware is a type of Romano-British ceramic. The classification includes two entirely different pottery types which share many stylistic characteristics. Black burnished ware 1 (BB1), is a black, coarse and gritty fabric. Vessels are hand made. Black burnished ware 2 (BB2) is a finer, grey-coloured, wheel thrown fabric.

Decoration on both types includes burnished lattice or, additionally, in the case of bowls and dishes, a wavy line design. Standard forms across both types include jars with everted rims and bowls with upright or flat flanged rims.

Black Burnished Ware 1[edit]

Black Burnished Ware Category 1 (BB1) is made from a clay body that has a coarse texture. The clay body can contain black iron ores, flint, quartz, red iron ores, shale fragments, and white mica.[1] BB1 can be grainy and black or dark gray in appearance. These wares are formed by hand.

BB1 wares were manufactured in the Dorset area and distributed throughout Britain.[2] The distribution of BB1 wares dates primarily to the mid-second to fourth centuries AD. Forms include bowls, dishes, and jars.[1]

Black Burnished Ware 2[edit]

Black Burnished Ware Category 2 (BB2) is greyer in color and has a finer texture when compared with BB1.[3] It is a “hard, sandy fabric, varying in colour from dark-grey or black with a brown or reddish brown core and a reddish-brown, blue-grey, black or lighter ('pearly grey') surface.”[4] The clay body can contain black iron ore, mica, and quartz, all in a matrix of sediment.[4]

BB2 wares were manufactured in the area of the Thames Estuary.[5][6] The distribution of BB2 wares occurred from AD 140 through to the mid third century AD in south-east England and the northern part of Britain.[4]


  1. ^ a b Tyers, P A. "South-east Dorset black-burnished 1." Potsherd. Accessed February 21, 2011. Last modified December 28, 2010.
  2. ^ Allen, J R L, and M G Fulford. "The Distribution of South-East Dorset Black Burnished Category I Pottery in South-West Britain." Britannia 27 (1996): 223-281. Accessed February 21, 2011.
  3. ^ Darvill, T. (2003). Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. ISBN 9780192800053.
  4. ^ a b c Tyers, P A. "Black-burnished 2." Potsherd. Accessed February 21, 2011. Last modified December 28, 2010.
  5. ^ Catherall, P D, R J Pollard, R C Turne, and M A Monk. "A Romano-British Pottery Manufacturing Site at Oakleigh Farm, Higham, Kent." Britannia 14 (1983): 103-141. Accessed February 15, 2011.
  6. ^ Upchurch ware" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Mary Baldwin College. 22 February 2011 <>