Ovens in Roman archaeological sites

In Roman archaeological sites we can always find features which are related to either domestic or industrial activities, such as hearths, ovens, kilns, cisterns and pits. Even though these structures were usually located in workshops for the production of different objects or products (for instance, pottery, metal and glass objects), in Late Roman times many houses, both inside and outside city limits, started to have small ovens and kilns for the production of different goods for either family units or local scale trade.

One of the buildings from the Roman city of Sanisera (Menorca, Balearic Islands) has two ovens which are located in the corners of two different rooms. One of them is rectangular in layout and had a base consisting of slabs of stone, as we can infer by the location of some of them still “in situ”. Outside the oven we found several layers of ashes (resulting from cleaning the oven and throwing the ashes outside) and, very close to it, a mill stone for grinding wheat and other grains.

 One of the ovens found in Sanisera, with fire-tunnel and stone blocks inside the combustion chamber to sustain a grid floor, which is missing

One of the ovens found in Sanisera, with fire-tunnel and stone blocks inside the combustion chamber to sustain a grid floor, which is missing

The second oven is larger and has a firing-tunnel, called praefurnium, in its southern side. It belongs to the typical layout that ovens and kilns had in Roman times, as you can see in the picture below

Diagram showing main parts of a Roman oven/ kiln. 1: fire-tunnel’s entrance; 2: combustion chamber (furnace); 3: firing chamber; 4: Draw; 5: observatory; 6 & 7: firing chamber’s grid floor; 8: vault; 9: fire-tunnel (praefurnium)

Diagram showing main parts of a Roman oven/ kiln. 1: fire-tunnel’s entrance; 2: combustion chamber (furnace); 3: firing chamber; 4: Draw; 5: observatory; 6 & 7: firing chamber’s grid floor; 8: vault; 9: fire-tunnel (praefurnium)

Even though it lacks the firing chamber, we still have the combustion chamber with several stone blocks in its inside, which were used to sustain the floor of the firing chamber, where bread and other products were baked. The firing-tunnel and the area outside it had a layer of ashes, resulting from the last firing activity of the oven before it was abandoned. Since remains of metal slag or pottery waste were not found, this oven would have also been used to bake bread and other foodstuffs.

A commercial oven in Pompeii

A commercial oven in Pompeii (Shelly Martin)

 

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