The Dacian pottery from the Orăștie Mountains is individualized in the ceramic repertoire from pre-Roman Dacia both by the selection of shapes, and by the production technique. Thus, as we approach the capital of the Dacian Kingdom, the pottery is characterized especially by a “classical” elegance, of Mediterranean inspiration.
The main ceramic forms used for the individual or collective consumption of food are the carrenated bowl, with short pedestal or foot ring, the bowl with incurved rim and short pedestal, and the bowl with flaring rim and foot ring. Some items with the rim diameter over 30 cm or with a higher depth could also have been used to serve food. For pouring and mixing liquids, the pitcher with bellied body and the handle joined under the rim, and the krater with bell-shaped body were used. Very few bitronconic jugs or with S-shaped profile were discovered, and the recipients used for the consumption of liquids are also lacking, although a few fragments could come from two-handled cups of the kantharos type.
Also significant for the pottery of the Orăștie Mountains are the storage vessels, used for depositing water or cereals. The most frequent are the piriform vessels and the ones with widened or profiled rim, sometimes reaching very big sizes, of almost 2 m, all having foot rings.
All recipients mentioned above were wheel-thrown, made from a paste with fine sand, sometimes adding grog and pebbles. Handmade pots are also present, made from a coarse and more porous paste, and used in the kitchen. The cooking pots do not differ from the similar recipients found in other contemporary Dacian settlements, being discovered vessels with flaring rim and thin neck or with slightly inverted and rounded rim and arched profile. Some pots of this type, of bigger sizes, could also have been used as storage recipients. Also from a porous paste, but wheel-thrown are the situla type pots, used for the preparation of food or for storage and handling. To the ceramic types mentioned above, we should add the lids mainly wheel-thrown, most of them with a top button, some even having a fixing inner ridge. It is interesting that ceramic shapes that are frequent in other areas of pre-Roman Dacia, like the “fruit bowl” and “the Dacian cup”, are rare in the Orăștie Mountains, especially near Sarmizegetusa Regia.
The colour of the pots mentioned above differs depending on their type of firing. Therefore, the recipients fired in an oxidizing environment mainly displayed shades of red, orange, even pink, depending on the level of iron oxide in the paste. The same aspect also influenced the chromatic of reduced fired pots (in the absence of oxygen), from shades of brown to grey and even black. Some recipients are polychromatic, the effect of some problems occurred during the baking of the pots in the firing facility or of the secondary firing, intentional (as result of the food cooking process) or accidental (following a fire). But sometimes, regardless of the paste colour, the Dacian potters would add a fine layer of clay on the pot’s surface. This emulsion, named slip, had both a decorative role, illustrating a bright colour (mainly brown and black, rarely red) and sometimes with a metallic glow, and a functional role, of waterproofing the recipients.
The ornaments on the ceramics from the Dacian fortresses’ area from the Orăștie Mountains are visibly less diversified than in other sites of the period. The main decorative motif is the incision, usually made horizontally under the rim, on the shoulder or above the pots base, but also the “wave” incision is encountered, mainly on the body of the recipients with medium and large sizes. On the body of some cooking pots or that of the situla type vessels, vertical striations are visible, incised with the help of the “comb”. Sometimes, the parallel incisions frame more complex ornamental registers, being often related to horizontal nervures.
The stamped decoration is a surprising appearance in the area of the capital of the Dacian Kingdom, the main motif being the rosette, made of 5 or 7 conjoined triangles. Mainly the storage vessels were decorated this way, but the stamped rosettes were also identified on some lids, in this case they may be interpreted as potter marks. Another stamped ornamental motif is the ovae, laid in horizontal rows of “scales” on the body of the storage pots.
The applied ornaments are not often encountered in the Orăștie Mountains, being used in the kitchenware, with the mention that their functional role should not be ignored (both the buttons and the humps, and the vertical striations provide a higher level of manoeuvrability of the recipients). Mainly, the applied decoration is represented by circular buttons (simple, chopped, alveolar) or lanceolate, horizontal humps, as well as alveolar belts, chopped or braided. In some cases these motifs are combined.