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date: 02 December 2020

amphorae and amphora stamps, Romanlocked

  • David J. Mattingly

Extract

Amphorae, ceramic coarseware jars used for transporting a range of goods, provide the most abundant and meaningful archaeological data on the nature, range, and scale of Roman inter-regional trade in commodities such as *olive oil, *wine, marine products and fish sauces (see fishing), preserved fruits, etc. Amphorae were most heavily used in long-distance transport, especially maritime or riverine, and are thus an effective guide to regional economic activity. The contents were clearly intended to be recognizable from the distinctive outward appearance of the most common amphora types, though painted inscriptions were sometimes added to the jar. The epigraphic evidence associated with amphorae (stamps on the vessel and on the stoppers (see below), painted inscriptions) adds further to their value in studies of the economy. Most amphorae share a number of common features: a narrow mouth, two opposed handles, thickish walls for strength, a tapering base (often a spike, though some amphorae had flat bottoms) to facilitate pouring and stacking in ships. Size and weight were important; amphorae were designed to be portable by one or at most two individuals. The classification of amphorae is an important area of Roman *pottery research and the diagnostic characteristics, fabrics, provenance, date-range, contents, and outline distribution patterns are now reasonably well established for numerous examples.

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