Brick stamps from Ocriculum and elsewhere.
It is wonderful to be able to put such precise dates to objects that are so old, and that are thankfully also fairly common. In this video we have learned about the use of bricks at Portus and about the very many brickworks that were established in the Middle Tiber Valley in the vicinity of Orte and Ocriculum, with workshops producing millions of bricks.
These bricks formed the inner and outer faces of the concrete walls from which most of the buildings at Portus, Ostia and Rome itself were built for much of the Imperial period. They are particularly useful to us because many of the bricks dating to the later 1st and mid to later 2nd c AD were marked with an impressed stamp that provides us with information about the brick yard (figlina
), the brick manufacturer (officinator
), the manufacturer’s workshop (officina
), the owner of the land on which the brick yard was located (dominus
), and the exact date when they were made: the last was expressed in terms of the name of the reigning consuls.
A brick stamp found in the Castellum Aquae during its survey – Graeme Earl © University of Southampton
The bricks were transported down the Tiber to Rome in barges, and those bound for Portus and Ostia would have continued their onwards journey, with the products of different manufactories being assigned to various buildings projects in differing batches and combinations that tell us something about how building projects were organized. They are also useful to us because careful consideration of the exact date of a number of these stamps from a building helps us to date it. These dates give us a terminus post quem
for the part of the building from which it derives.
Remember that “terminus post quem” means the “time after which” a particular archaeological event must have taken place – and is a fundamental aspect of archaeological chronology.
Next we will look at one particular brick stamp in detail.