Bowl with appliqué decoration

Roman, mid-4th century AD
From central Tunisia

African Red Slip ware

The bowl is made in a thin, fine clay, typical of central Tunisia. The interior is decorated with appliqués. The larger scene, taking up almost half of the vessel floor, shows a group of cupids. The central cupid reclines and seems to be mimicking Hercules, while the others make offerings to him of a garland and a kid. The smaller appliqué shows a centaur-triton blowing an elongated triton shell. The two subjects do not seem to be related, but the random mixing of motifs is common in this period.

African Red Slip Ware was inspired by Italian Red Slip Ware (Arretine ware) and Gaulish Red Slip Ware (samian ware). It began to be manufactured in numerous kiln-sites throughout Africa Proconsularis (northern Tunisia) from the first century AD. While it was originally produced for the domestic market, it began to be used as a secondary, or 'piggy-back', cargo on the corn and oil ships which sailed from Africa. By the late first century AD it had reached Sicily and Italy. As the produce of North Africa became ever more important to the Empire, the quantity, diversity and popularity of north African products grew proportionately. By the later third century, African Red Slip Ware, produced now in central as well as northern Tunisia, was the dominant pottery tableware of the Roman world, and continued to dominate the market until the Arab invasions of the later seventh century destroyed workshops and markets alike.

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More information


J.W. Hayes, Late Roman pottery (London: British School at Rome, 1972)

J.W. Hayes, Handbook of Mediterranean Roma (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

J.W. Hayes, A supplement to Late Roman pot (London: British School at Rome, 1980)


Diameter: 18.800 cm (rim)
Height: 4.700 cm

Museum number

GR 1997.4-2.1



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