Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.02.44

Jonas Eiring, John Lund, Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean. Acts of the International Colloquium at the Danish Institute at Athens, September 26-29, 2002. Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens, 5.   Athens:  The Danish Institute at Athens, 2004.  Pp. 539; ills.  ISBN 87-7934-118-7.  $59.95.  

Reviewed by Roald F. Docter, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History of Europe,Ghent University (
Word count: 2344 words

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

For decades specialists and non-specialists alike have known that the field of Mediterranean amphora studies has become just too vast and too multi-facetted to be grasped by any individual scholar. A glance at Paul Reynolds' updated distribution map of only the regionally produced amphora classes in the Levant of only the Roman and Byzantine periods (illustrated on p. 13 as fig. 1) suffices to measure both the advances and the complexities of amphora studies at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Imagine having to consider the productions of other regions such as Greece, the Black-Sea area and North-Africa for only these periods as well. Imagine having to take into account the productions of earlier periods too. And imagine having to cope with aspects of consumption, amphora stamps, tituli picti, chronology, use and re-use, capacities, and all other aspects potentially serving a better understanding of ancient economies. One may easily become desperate. It was, therefore, a daring enterprise when the National Museum of Denmark and the Danish Institute at Athens set out to organize a Colloquium on 'Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean' to mark the centenary of Danish Archaeological Investigations on Rhodes (started by Christian S. Blinkenberg and Karl F. Kinch).

The thematic choice for this celebration had been inspired by the fact that the first scientific publication to emerge from the Rhodes' excavations was M.P. Nilsson's Timbres amphoriques de Lindos of 1909. Ever since, Danish scholars have been in the forefront of pottery studies and of amphora studies in particular. By publishing the Acts, the editors allow those not present at the Colloquium to judge whether they succeeded in their ambitious enterprise. It is very welcome that swiftness of publication has remained a Danish tradition: Nilsson published within seven years of the start of the excavations, and the editors of this volume managed to print the Colloquium's proceedings in less than two years, a point of praise all too rare in the archaeological discipline.

The editors were clearly aware of the vast geographical and chronological scope of the Colloquium, as their Introduction situates it in the historical setting of amphora-related conferences, which, starting in 1974, were almost all of a much more limited scope. The wider approach of the Athens Colloquium has its reason, though, since the organizers explicitly wanted to break down barriers, which might in any event be more imaginary than real, between different scholarly and national traditions and also between specialists in various periods and/or geographical regions. In doing so, they hoped to achieve two goals: to describe the current state of the art and to set out fruitful lines for future research.

The volume comprises a Preface and forty-eight scientific contributions, of which forty are in English, six in French, two in Italian, and one in German. Excepting the Preface, Introduction and Concluding Remarks, the essays are arranged alphabetically by the author's name. This choice facilitates finding your way to an article, once you know the author's name, but at the same time leaves a specialist who wants to read in a specific subject rather at loss. A geographical and subject index as well as registers of amphora stamps' names and symbols would have allowed easier access to the wealth of detailed and mainly new information. The general bibliography of 67 pages comprises no fewer than 1716 entries.

It is exactly this wealth of information and the range of subjects that precludes a thorough discussion of all contributions. Therefore I will first attempt to sketch some general lines and trends to be found in the collection of papers, and secondly I will highlight some contributions that deal with subjects with which I am more familiar, that is to say Archaic Greek, Phoenician, and Levantine transport amphorae.

In outlining some recurrent themes -- if not trends -- in the contributions I was helped by the clear-cut and well-structured Concluding Remarks written by Jonas Eiring, Gérald Finkielsztejn, Mark L. Lawall and John Lund. The bulk of the papers present work-in-progress of individual projects, and although preliminary in nature, they seem to represent the state of the art of amphora studies in the Eastern Mediterranean. Two research trends may be seen to govern these studies: the meticulous study of amphora stamps on the one hand and the approach based on a study of finds in quantified contexts on the other. Quantification in particular is a topic in which amphora studies may benefit from the artifact quantification discourse in neighboring fields. Strict application of conventional archaeological methods to the study of stamped and unstamped amphorae may help to solve many chronology-related problems, as Lawall's case study of the Nikandros Group from Ephesos shows. Similar stress on deposits and contexts is found in other papers (Lungu, Marquié, Norskov, Timby and Williams). The highly confusing amphora terminology (I stopped counting at 85 different type names and numbers, though I still had quite a few pages to go) is not really stimulating the promulgation of the results, as the authors of the Concluding Remarks rightly observe. The proposal to establish a Conspectus of Transport Amphorae is well worth serious consideration. Linked to it, attention should be paid to the coordinated integration of petrological and chemical analyses of amphora fabrics, the inclusion of stamp data and aspects of distribution, geographical 'sourcing' of amphorae, to name just a few. The obvious and probably only way to manage such complicated and heterogeneous datasets would be digital, preferably in an open source environment on the Internet. The authors of the Concluding Remarks stress the need for the application of modern media technologies (p. 462), as Finkielsztejn does in his paper too (p. 119). Other authors, as e.g. Niculae Conovici (p. 100), are not so convinced of the value of such technologies for their particular interests; he may have a point to some measure, since most archaeological work on Mediterranean digs remains to be done in storerooms and find laboratories, where sometimes even electricity is a luxury. Paper versions then come in much handier than a de facto inaccessible internet site.

The subject matter of the volume is mainly limited to amphorae in the Eastern Mediterranean. Two extremely interesting papers reach out even farther and deal with the distribution of Roman amphorae to India (Will and Williams). The eastern emphasis is reflected in the bibliography and is only partly compensated for by the contribution of Stefanie Martin-Kilcher (see below). Sometimes one regrets that too little notice has been taken of the recent 'western' literature. I will limit myself to three examples.

The first part of Mark L. Lawall's 'Archaeological Context and Aegean Amphora Chronologies' gives an excellent historical overview of the study of Greek amphorae since 1779, both of the stamped and the unstamped ones. However, he seems unaware of the higher chronologies of East-Greek amphora classes based on the study of archaeological contexts in stratigraphical sequences of Phoenician Carthage (Tunisia) and Toscanos (Spain) as proposed by the present reviewer (East Greek fine wares and transport amphorae of the 8th - 5th century BC from Carthage and Toscanos.1 Conventional chronologies for these classes, as proposed by Pierre Dupont in 1998, are based on the Black-Sea finds that, of course, only start at around 600 BC and on seventh-century BC Etruscan tomb groups published in 1990. Consequently, the production and distribution of Samian amphorae may now be dated to the third quarter of the eighth century BC instead of late seventh/early sixth, that of Chian to the second not third quarter of the seventh century BC, and of Clazomenian and East-Greek black painted amphorae to the end of the eighth century BC.

A second example of an 'eastern bias' in the literature may be found in Dalit Regev's discussion of Levantine amphorae in the West (p. 340). Access to the extensive literature of the last fifteen years would have permitted the author to sketch a much more balanced picture. Part of these references may already be found in Joan Ramon Torres' book Las ánforas fenicio-púnicas del Mediterráneo central y occidental, (Col-lecció Instrumenta, Barcelona, 1995) that is listed in the general bibliography. Of course, the recent publication of the many Levantine transport amphorae in a ninth and early eighth century BC context in Huelva (Spain) could not be taken into consideration by the author.2 These early dates have now been confirmed by calibrated radiocarbon analyses on animal bones from the same context.3

As a third, related case one may refer to Samuel R. Wolff's 'Punic Amphoras in the Eastern Mediterranean'. He acknowledges (p. 450, n. 2) that the 1995 book of Joan Ramon Torres is the most thorough treatment of the subject but has to admit at the same time that it is unavailable in Israel.

Not all papers read at the Colloquium made it into the publication. Those striving to become amphora specialists would certainly have welcomed Yvon Garlan's inaugural paper to the Colloquium, Comment peut-on être amphorologue?. On the other hand, Stefanie Martin-Kilcher was asked afterwards to contribute an overview of amphora studies in the West since the 1989 Sienna Congress Amphores Romaines. This is an extremely useful contribution, thematically discussing a well-chosen selection of the literature on amphore of the second/first centuries BC to the sixth century AD and thus counter-balancing the book's accent on the East, at least for this period. Only few important monographs seem to have escaped her notice, as e.g. Josep Anton Remolà Vallverdú's, Las ánforas tardo-antiguas en Tarraco (Hispania tarraconensis) Siglos IV-VII d.C. (Col-lecció Instrumenta, Barcelona, 2000).

This well-edited collection of papers is probably one of the last in which such a wide geographical and chronological range of transport amphorae will be covered. Amphora studies are developing at such a pace that specialization, and perhaps over-specialization, seems almost inevitable. However, if future scholars should decide to disprove this skeptical diagnosis and mark time by attempting a retrospective of amphora studies and an outlook on the field as a whole, Eiring and Lund's 2004 publication of the Athens 2002 Colloquium will certainly be their point of departure.


Carsten U. Larsen, Jorgen Mejer, Preface;

John Eiring, John Lund, Introduction

Catherine Abadie-Reynal, Les amphores méditerranéennes d'importation trouvées à Zeugma: présentation préliminaire

Donald T. Ariel, Stamped Amphora Handles from Bet-She'an: Evidence for the Urban Development of the City in the Hellenistic Period

Catherine Aubert, Le commerce antique en Phénicie d'après les amphores locales et importées de Beyrouth

Rita Auriemma, Elena Quiri, Importazioni di anfore orientali nell'Adriatico tra primo e medio impero

Nathan Badoud, Un dauphin aulète sur les timbres amphoriques de Thasos

Pascale Ballet, Delphine Dixneuf, Ateliers d'amphores de la chôra égyptienne aux époques romaine et byzantine

Craig Barker, The Use of Rhodian Amphorae in Hellenistic Graves at New Paphos, Cyprus

Tamás Bezeczky, Early Roman Food Import in Ephesus: Amphorae from the Teragonos Agora

Niculae Conovici, Les problèmes actuels de la chronologie des timbres sinopéens

Hasan N. Erten, Dominique Kassab Tezgör, Isik R. Türkmen, Abdullah Zararsiz, The Typology and Trade of the Amphorae of Sinope. Archaeological Study and Scientific Analyses

Gérald Finkielsztejn, Establishing the Chronology of Rhodian Amphora Stamps: the Next Steps

Yvon Garlan, Francine Blondé, Les représentations de vases sur les timbres amphoriques thasiens

Kristian Göransson, Transport Amphorae from Euhesperides (Benghazi), Libya. A Presentation of preliminary Results

Kristina Winther Jacobsen, Regional Distribution of Transport Amphorae in Cyprus in the Late Roman Period

Gerhard Jöhrens, Amphorenstempel und die Gründung von Tanais

Chrysa Karadima, Ainos: An Unknown Amphora Production Centre in the Evros Delta

Carolyn G. Koehler, Philippa M. Wallace Matheson, Knidian Amphora Chronology, Pergamon to Corinth

Mark L. Lawall, Archaeological Context and Aegean Amphora Chronologies: A Case Study of Hellenistic Ephesos

John R. Leonard, Stella Demesticha, Fundamental Links in the Economic Chain: Local Ports and International Trade in Roman and Early Christian Cyprus

Georgiy Lomtadze, Denis Zhuravlev, Amphorae from a Late Hellenistic Cistern at Pantikapaion

John Lund, Oil on the Waters? Reflections on the Contents of Hellenistic Transport Amphorae from the Aegean

Vasilica Lungu, Un dépôt d'amphores thasiennes du IVe siècle av. J.-C. à Orgamé;

Grzegorz Majcherek, Alexandria's Long-Distance Trade in late Antiquity -- the Amphora Evidence

Daniele Malfitana, Anfore e ceramiche fini da mensa orientali nella Sicilia tardo-ellenistica e romana: merci e genti tra Oriente ed Occidente

Sandrine Marquié, Un dépôt de la deuxième moitié du Ier s. de notre ère à Kition-Kathari (Chypre)

Stefanie Martin-Kilcher, Amphorae in the Roman West: Discussion and Research since 1989

Henryk Meyza, Kouriaka again: Amphora Stamps from the Kourion Acropolis Excavations

Vinnie Norskov, Amphorae from Three Wells at the Maussolleion of Halikarnassos: Something to Add to the Typology of Mushroom Rims?

Andrei Opait, The Eastern Mediterranean Amphorae in the Province of Scythia

Karolina Paczynska, Svetlana A. Naumenko, Forlimpopoli Amphorae at Tanais in the Second and Third Centuries AD

Ewdoksia Papuci-Wladyka, Tatiana N. Kokorzhitskaia, Greek Amphorae from the Polish-Ukrainian Excavations at Koshary, Odessa District (Fourth and Third Centuries BC): a First Presentation

Kaare Lund Rasmussen, John Lund; On the Clay Provenance of Rhodian Transport Amphorae

Nicholas K. Rauh, Pirated Knock-Offs: Cilician Imitations of Internationally Traded Amphorae

Dalit Regev, The Phoenician Transport Amphora

Gonca Cankardas Senol, Ahmet Kaan Senol, Ersin Doger, Amphora Production in the Rhodian Peraea in the Hellenistic Period

Kathleen Warner Slane, Amphoras -- Used and Re-used -- at Corinth

Vivien G. Swan, Dichin (Bulgaria) and the Supply of Amphorae to the Lower Danube in the Late Roman-Early Byzantine Period

Jane Timby, Amphorae from Excavations at Pompeii by the University of Reading

Roberta Tomber, Amphorae from the Red Sea and Their Contribution to the Interpretation of Late Roman Trade beyond the Empire

Anna de Vincenz, Stamped handles from Ramla-Israel

Sergey Yu. Vnukov, Pan-Roman Amphora Types Produced in the Black Sea Region

Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, Stavroula Apostolakou, New Evidence of Wine Production in East Crete in the Hellenistic Period

Malcolm Wallace, Standardization in Greek Amphora Capacities

Elizabeth Lyding Will, Mediterranean Amphoras in India

David F. Williams, The Eruption of Vesuvius and its Implications for the Early Roman Amphora Trade with India

Samuel R. Wolff, Punic Amphoras in the Eastern Mediterranean

Jonas Eiring, Gérald Finkielsztejn, Mark L. Lawall, John Lund, Concluding Remarks.


1.   P. Cabrera Bonet and M. Santos Retolaza (eds.), Ceràmiques iònies d'època arcaica: Centres de producció i comercialització al Mediterrani occidental. Actes de la Taula Rodona celebrada a Empúries, els dies 26 al 28 de maig de 1999 (Barcelona 2000) pp. 63-88.
2.   See F. González de Canales Cerisola, L. Serrano Pichardo and J. Llompart Gómez, El emporío fenicio percolonial de Huelva (ca. 900-770 a.C.), Biblioteca Nueva, Madrid 2004.
3.   See the same authors in BABesch 81, 2006, forthcoming.

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