Ancient Roman pottery  

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Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman Empire and beyond. Monte Testaccio is a huge waste mound in Rome made almost entirely of broken amphorae used for transporting and storing liquids and other products - in this case probably mostly Spanish olive oil, which was landed nearby (and was the main fuel for lighting, well as its use in the kitchen and baths).

There is no Roman equivalent to the artistically central vase-painting of Ancient Greece, and few objects of outstanding artistic interest have survived, but there is a great deal of fine tableware, and very many small figures, often incorporated into oil lamps or similar objects, and often with religious or erotic themes. The Romans generally did not leave grave goods, the best source of ancient pottery, but even so "fine" rather than luxury pottery is the main strength of Roman pottery, unlike Roman glass, which the elite increasingly used with gold or silver tableware, and which could be extremely extravagant and expensive. It is clear from the quantities found that fine pottery was used very widely in both social and geographic terms. The more expensive pottery tended to use relief decoration, usually moulded, rather than paint, and often copied shapes and decoration from the more prestigious metalwork. Especially in the Eastern Empire, local traditions continued, hybridizing with Roman styles to varying extents.

From the 3rd century the quality of fine pottery steadily declined, partly because of economic and political disturbances, and because glassware was replacing pottery for drinking cups (the rich had always preferred silver in any case).

Pottery for the kitchens, as opposed to tables, of the better-off, and for all purposes of poorer people, is often called "coarse ware" and was more likely to be made locally. For example there were several types of British coarse wares produced over long periods,<ref>Potsherd British coarse wares</ref> whereas fine pottery was only briefly made in Colchester, and otherwise imported, as also was some coarse ware, even from as far away as Italy.

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