The so-called Eastern Sigillata B (ESB), a popular tableware in the eastern Mediterranean from the middle of the 1st century BCE, is the focus of this project. Although the ESB has been known since 1904 and a basic typo-chronology exists, large research desiderata still exist. These mainly concern production and manufacturing techniques as well as sales markets.

In the hinterland of Ephesos (western Turkey), the production of ESB was started in Augustan times (30 BCE – 14 CE), developing into mass production during the Roman Imperial period. The precursors of these “industrially” produced sets of various vessel forms are already found in the late Hellenistic period. However, the production of these "prototypes" has never been analyzed comprehensively. Two different production series can be distinguished in Roman mass production based on quality, vessel shape, and decorative elements. The difference in quality, especially between the fabrics and the slips, has often been used to distinguish between the two ESB series chronologically. However, ESB finds from Ephesos show that quality played a minor role or is most likely due to workshop-specific differences. The ancient city of Tralleis (modern Aydın) in the hinterland of Ephesos is considered the main production site, where several workshops with regional production patterns can be assumed. This project investigates how the differences between the production series and qualities can be evaluated. With the help of archaeometric analyses (NAA and SEM), applied for the first time on a large number of samples, production processes, and individual workshops will be identified.

Since the start of production, the demand for ESB products has increased continuously, and Ephesos developed from a sales market to an important trading hub. ESB vessels reached the entire eastern Mediterranean region and beyond through the Ephesian port. A research gap in the export radius is the Adriatic region. Shipwrecks with import vessels from Asia Minor have been found along the coasts, but a comprehensive study of the ESB from this region is lacking. By including the ESB finds from the Croatian sites of Trogir and Hvar/Soline and the shipwreck found off Pakleni/Izmetište, this area will now be covered.

This project represents a comprehensive re-evaluation of the ESB in conjunction with new archaeometric analyses. The diachronic study of finds from Ephesos and Tralleis will enable the identification of ESB workshops and the specification of the production series. ESB finds from the Adriatic region will be integrated to trace trade beyond the eastern Mediterranean. For the first time, all information on one ware group from Ephesos will also be accessible via Open Access.

Principal Investigator






    FWF Hertha Firnberg-Projekt T 1326-G