Terra sigillata is an archaeological term that refers
to a specific type of both plain and decorated
tableware made in Italy and in Gaul (France and
the Rhineland) during the Roman Empire. These
vessels have glossy surface slips ranging from a
soft lustre to a brilliant glaze-like shine, in a
characteristic colour range from pale orange to
bright red; they were produced in standard
shapes and sizes and were manufactured on an
industrial scale and widely exported. Usually
roughly translated as 'sealed earth', the meaning
of 'terra sigillata' is 'clay bearing little images'
(Latin sigilla),. The archaeological term is applied,
however, to plain-surfaced pots as well as those
decorated with figures in relief.
Terra Sigillata industries grew up in areas where
there were existing traditions of pottery
manufacture and where the clay deposits proved
suitable, while their distribution casts light on
aspects of the ancient Roman economy.
The six reliefs depict couples
engaged in an array of amorous positions. The
purpose of such scenes was to mainly titillate the
users of the lagynos.
Catherine Jones, Sex or Symbol. Erotic Images of
Greece and Rome (Austin 1982), pages 125-130,
for a discussion of vessels of this type and their
decoration and meaning.