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Stone mortars : a badly known aspect of the roman material culture

Abstract : As part of a research conducted on medieval stone mortars, several reports and studies pointed out stone mortar finds from the late Iron Age onwards in Roman Gaul : research on this type of ustensil is indeed dominated by the ceramic version. The stone mortars did not received a detailed account, despite a study by Dunning (1968) on the results of excavations in the fort of Richborough (Kent, England). And in despite of the research on mortars in Purbeck Marble, Cool (2005) stated the scarcity of available synthetic data on the numerous English discoveries. The English call finds echo in more general studies in roman Aquitaine (France) (Bertrand & Tendron, 2012) and in Italy (Caffini 2010). These studies can be completed by Iron Age finds, not only on urbanized sites, like Lattes (Feugère, 1992) and Bibracte (Boyer & Farget, 2008), but also in rural settlements (Jaccottey et al, 2011). This study reveals, among others, a production of mortars in basalt at the end of the Iron Age, with a distribution up to Charente Maritime, where it is present next to mortars in different stone types, including marble (Bertrand & Tendron, 2012). In accordance with the recommendations of Pliny the Elder in his "Natural History", the discoveries of Roman Aquitaine include a large number of examples in this material. Two archaeological contexts now attest medical preparations: one in an Aquitaine burial of an ophthalmologist, the other in the finds of the fired domus of a surgeon moved to Rimini (Italy), where nine mortars in marble and other stones have been found (Ortalli 2014,). For England, the cited survey point out a particularly dense distribution of stone mortars in the southwest, both from extraction and consumer sites. Their manufacturing does not take model on imported marble mortars only, that are rather rare and restricted to major city sites. In France, studies on millstone finds in Champagne-Ardenne also reveal the first examples of a parallel production of mortars in sandstone from the north-east of Paris in the 3rd century (Lepareux-Couturier, 2013) or in vaugnérite, a magmatic rock from Burgundy (for a find in the south of Champagne; Jaccottey, in progress). In Belgium, the above Aquitaine study has led to the re-discovery of finds in collections of archaeological sites like Taviers, Liberchies and Namur (Vilvorder 2013). In the Belgian coastal fort of Oudenburg a late roman find has been inventoried (Vanhoutte et al, 2009). Furthermore, the discoveries in the portus of Dorestad (Netherlands) documents the reuse of roman imported building stones (Kars & Broekman 1981).
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Submitted on : Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 11:38:50 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 10:32:06 PM
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Geert Verbrugghe. Stone mortars : a badly known aspect of the roman material culture. Roman ornamental stones in North-Western Europe. Tongeren (Belgiê), 20-22 april '16 (, Apr 2016, Tongeren, Belgium. . ⟨hal-02442909⟩



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