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Petrography and Provenance of Laecanius Amphorae from Istria, Northern Adriatic Region, Croatia


Amphorae sherds from the Laecanius workshop of Roman Istria (10–5 B.C. and 78 A.D.), Croatia, were studied by integrating archaeological and geological techniques including fabric analysis, thin-section petrography, X-ray diffractometry (XRD), and heavy mineral analysis. The fabric of the sherds showed distinctive characteristics, permitting their classification and allocation into nine fabric groupss. Petrography revealed that quartz is the dominant clastic component, whereas carbonate is common as temper; XRD provided information on firing temperatures that ranged between 750 and 900°C. The sherds contain diverse heavy mineral suites with generally high epidote and garnet proportions; zircon is occasionally important. Garnet/epidote ratios and the presence of diagnostic species (pyroxene, hornblende) showed systematic variations that coincided with similar variations in fabric characteristics. Heavy mineral signatures of amphorae produced in other workshops proved essential in differentiating them from Laecanius sherds. A comparative heavy mineral analysis of terra rossa samples from the vicinity of the workshop indicated that terra rossa was the major source for the paste. Differences observed in the heavy mineral composition of the sherds and terra rossa were interpreted by the spatial heterogeneity of the latter and the mixing of the paste with sandy temper. Fresh Adriatic sponge spicules in the majority of Laecanius sherds and the temper-derived, generally immature heavy mineral assemblages suggest that sandy deposits from the Adriatic were used for the clastic temper.

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