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Thin walled pottery from Alife (Northern Campania, Italy)


Celestino Grifa1, Alberto De Bonis2, Vincenza Guarino2, Chiara Maria Petrone3, Chiara Germinario1, Mariano Mercurio1, Gianluca Soricelli4, Alessio Langella1 and Vincenzo Morra2


1Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie, Università degli Studi del Sannio,
Via Dei Mulini 59/a, 82100, Benevento, Italy
2Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e delle Risorse, Università degli
Studi di Napoli Federico II, Via Mezzocannone 8, 80134, Napoli, Italy
3The Natural History Museum, Department of Earth Sciences, Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD London, United Kingdom
4Dipartimento di Scienze Umanistiche, Sociali e della Formazione, Università degli Studi del Molise, Isernia, Italy
Periodico di Mineralogia (2015), Special Issue, 84, 1, 65-90
DOI: 10.2451/2015PM0005
The ancient town of Allifae (modern Alife) represents one of the most interesting settlements of the Northern Campania area that, together with the ancient city of Cales, was a thriving production centre of pottery. Excavations carried out inside the city wall, near the south gate, the so-called Porta Fiume, unearthed a huge dump of thin walled ware where the most abundant forms were cups and beakers, decorated with grooves or rouletting. The dump has been dated Augustan/early Tiberian age (20 b.C.- 20 AD) and the thin walled vessels found can be identified with similar wares from Allifae, Cubulteria, Caiatia and perhaps Neapolis. Horace in his Sermones (II, 8,39) cited the Allifana beakers (described as fictiles ac subtiles by a Horace scholiast) and they could possibly be identified with the thin walled wares produced in Allifae.
If this the case, then the thin walled vessels produced in Allifae were known in Rome as early as the end of I century B.C. In order to investigate and characterise the Allifae thin-walled pottery, twenty-one samples were selected and mineralogical-petrographic analyses (OM, XRPD, XRF and SEM/EDS) were carried out. The clayey raw material used was a low-CaO alluvial clayey deposit from the Middle Valley of the Volturno River. The potters probably handled the sediment by a levigation process in order to remove the coarser grains, and making the clay suitable to produce such thin walls. Comparison with other regional production of thin-walled pottery allowed us to strictly distinguish the Allifana beakers.
Key words: Thin walled pottery; Alife; Volturno river clays; Grain Size Analyses; levigation.