Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.06.15 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.06.15

Bernhard Schmaltz, Die hellenistischen Amphorenstempel von Kaunos. Asia Minor Studien, 79.   Bonn:  Dr. Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 2016.  Pp. viii, 447.  ISBN 9783774939622.  €89.00.  

Reviewed by Tania Panagou, Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades, Greek Ministry of Culture (

The excavation of every Hellenistic city, especially if it had an important harbor, inevitably recovers a great many fragments of transport amphoras, some of them bearing the stamps characteristic of these commercial containers. Kaunos in Caria, once a significant coastal city-state, is such a case. Excavations began there in 1965 under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Baki Öğün, then continuing after 2000 under Prof. Dr. Cengiz Işık (Başkent University of Ankara). In 1987‒2002, the Turkish team was augmented by archaeologists from the University of Kiel, Germany, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmaltz. Hundreds of amphora stamps were found and Schmaltz has undertaken the substantial task of their documentation, identification and final publication.

The book begins with a short foreword (pp. VII‒VIII), where Schmaltz explains that, although he is not an amphora specialist, he began a catalogue of the amphora stamps found in the excavations as a parergon. In 1988, in the course of researching Kaunos’s only completely preserved stamped amphora (cat. nrs. 186/316), he contacted pioneer amphorologist Virginia R. Grace.1 Through his communication with Grace and later with her collaborator Maria Savvatianou-Petropoulakou, he developed a systematic catalogue of almost 700 amphora stamps.2 This forms the core of the current publication, to which he has added almost 250 more recent finds.

A short introductory note (pp. 1‒4) explains the arrangement of the catalogue, also revealing the unfortunate circumstance that a significant part of the material (c. 20%) could not be retrieved from the excavation storerooms in 2012‒2013, when Schmaltz was reviewing the stamps in preparation for publication. Drawings of these pieces had to be made from photographs and consequently reproduce only the rough form of the handle.

As is usual with presentations of amphora stamps the catalogue makes up the bulk of the publication (pp. 5‒402). Schmaltz meticulously details 938 stamps, of which at least 84% are Rhodian (nrs. 1‒786 ).3 This Rhodian dominance accords well with known patterns of amphora stamp distribution for the region and the time span. The Rhodian stamps are arranged according to the chronological periods originally established by Grace, with the revised chronology of Finkielsztejn,4 with the exception that he treats stamps of periods VI-VIIa (c. 107‒40 BC), to which less scholarly attention has been devoted, as a single group. Within each period, stamps are arranged alphabetically, first by eponym and then by fabricant. The dated Rhodian stamps are followed by four stamps naming only months (nrs. 783‒786).

The next part of the catalogue is devoted to stamps with monograms, ligatures, and devices (nrs. 787‒831). Given the difficulty of determining the origin and meaning of such stamps, they are often placed among the unidentified. Schmaltz instead situates them immediately after the Rhodian stamps, on the basis of the clay of most of them, which resembles Rhodian in color and quality. The resultant mingling of likely Rhodian stamps with others of unknown origin is ultimately confusing.5

The next part of the catalogue lists amphora stamps of non-Rhodian origin (nrs. 832‒908), arranged alphabetically by their identified (or proposed) provenances: Chersonesos, Chios, Ephesos (Nikandros group), Herakleia Pontike, Knidos, Kos, Kourion, Mende (Parmeniskos group), Nagidos, Pamphylia, Sinope, Thasos.

It comes as no surprise that the largest group comes from Knidos (thirty stamps: nrs. 842‒871), followed by a set of nineteen stamps from Thasos (nrs. 890‒908).Sixteen of the Knidian stamps belong to the early groups dated in the 3rd c. BC. For the Knidian stamps of the regular stamping period it would have been helpful to note the relevant KT number. 6 Schmaltz uses Garlan’s chronology for the Thasian stamps.7

Amphoras of Kos and Chios, where stamping was less common, are represented by six (nrs. 872‒877) and five (nrs. 833‒837) stamps, respectively.

An interesting feature of the collection is the presence of products of amphora-producing centers in the broad vicinity of the site: two stamps of the Nikandros group attributed to Ephesos (nrs. 838‒839), two attributed to Kourion on Cyprus (nrs. 878‒879), four attributed to Nagidos in Cilicia (nrs. 884‒887), and one to Pamphylia (nr. 888). Additionally, one should note the total absence of a local stamped amphora production at Kaunos.

Imports from the Northern Aegean, aside from Thasos, are represented by three stamps of the Parmeniskos group attributed to Mende (nrs. 880‒882), with a possible new name (Λυσικράτης, nr. 880).

Stamps from Black Sea centers seem to be exceptions: one from Chersonesos Pontike (nr. 832) and one from Sinope (nr. 889). The attribution of nrs. 840‒841 to Herakleia Pontike, based only on the incuse form of the stamped letters, is doubtful.8

The catalogue ends with thirty unidentified stamps (nrs. 909‒938). Most are clearly Rhodian and could have been placed after the Rhodian stamps as illegible. Only five provide no hint of their origins.9

The catalogue is followed by a review of the amphora stamps of Kaunos (pp. 403‒421). The author, who has a profound knowledge of the excavations in Kaunos, discusses the findspots of the stamps, but there were no closed deposits or contexts that could make a contribution to the discussion of amphora stamp chronologies.

The collection does, however, contribute several new names, combinations of names, and suggested homonyms in the series of Rhodian stamps (pp. 403, 417‒419). A new combination of an eponym and a fabricant stamp appears on the completely preserved amphora, which is connected with the construction work at the city-walls (nrs. 186 Δαμοσθένης / 316 Ἀριστεύς). A further pair of names is suggested by the find spot of two stamps and their similarities in clay, shape and stamp (nrs. 79 Θεύλυτος / 183 Βραχυλ-). There are also nine stamps bearing the names of both eponym and fabricant (nrs. 25, 46, 177, 71, 94, 124, 131, 778, 762). The Kaunian material is very rich in stamps of Rhodian period I, documenting one previously unknown eponym (nr. 141 Φιλήρατος) and suggesting five further early homonyms (nrs. 91 Κλειτόμαχος, 225 Εὔξενος, 209 Δωρίων, 277 Πίστος, 265 Μενέστρατος). Schmaltz also comments on previously unknown stamp forms connected with certain names of period I (nrs. 86, 215, 216, 31‒33).

Schmaltz offers a fresh view of the technical aspects of the stamping process and presents evidence supporting the conclusion that the stamping device was made of wood (pp. 412‒417). He also points out the diversity of Rhodian stamps of period I (form, inscription, clay, position of stamp, monograms etc.) in contrast to those of later periods, during which regular forms prevail (pp. 407‒412).

Finally, a chronological overview of the Rhodian stamps found in Kaunos provides a very broad framework for comments on the function of the Palaistra and the Temple (pp. 404‒406) and on the economic history of the city (pp. 419‒421).

The book ends with indexes (pp. 423‒435) and a bibliography (pp. 437‒447). An index of the devices would have been useful. Although published in 2016, the manuscript was completed in 2013, and hence the latest publication cited dates to 2013.

One misses a drawing of the completely preserved amphora (nrs. 186/316), a table of the Rhodian and Knidian chronological periods, and a plan of Kaunos and environs with the finding places of the stamps.

Secondary stamps (nrs. 569, 640, 705, 866) and stamps on lagynoi (nrs. 817, 822, 914, 915) and on a small amphora (nr. 826) are hidden in the catalogue and do not receive special attention except for a footnote (p. 407 note 23).

More careful editing would have caught some typographical errors, mainly in the accentuation of ancient Greek and in the epigraphical conventions used for readings of amphora stamps.10 A major fault in layout, already evident in the table of contents (p. V), creates some confusion, as the full catalogue, including non-Rhodian and unidentified stamps, falls under the heading “Catalogue of Rhodian Amphora Stamps.” Similarly, all the early Knidian stamps are listed under the sub-heading “Knidos (>Zenon-Gruppe<)” (p. 363).

The publication of such an extensive collection of amphora material is a particular challenge for a scholar who is not a specialist in this rarified field. Overall, Schmaltz’s study is admirable for its complete presentation of this material, which otherwise would have remained forgotten in the storerooms.11 Volume 79 of the Asia Minor Studien provides a new collection of stamps, expanding the ever-growing corpus of known amphora stamps, a rich and important resource for future identification and study of stamped amphoras.


1.   The relevant correspondence and the notes of Grace and her collaborators can be consulted in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Virginia R. Grace Papers (folders 185, 186, 958).
2.   Their notes are included in the catalogue entries of the publication.
3.   More Rhodian stamps are included in the catalogue of monograms, ligatures and devices and of unidentified stamps; see below notes 5 and 9 for additional 38, more or less certain, attributions (cf. p. 406 note 20).
4.   G. Finkielsztejn, Chronologie détaillée et révisée des éponymes amphoriques rhodiens de 270 à 108 av. J.-Chr. environ: Premier bilan, Oxford 2001.
5.   Rhodian origin is assumed on more or less fragile grounds for nrs. 790, 791, 797, 799, 803, 804, 807, 808, 809, 817, 818, 821, 822, 824, 825, 827, while nrs. 788, 801, 814, 816 are of non-Rhodian material. Nr. 787 seems to be identical with nr. 794, perhaps Early Knidian.
6.   Nr. 858 = KT 922, 859 = KT 1131, 860 = KT 684, 861 = KT 102, 862 = KT 120, 863 = 1138, 865 = KT 553. Nrs. 864 and 866‒871 could not be identified.
7.   The chronology proposed by C. Tzochev, “Notes on the Thasian Amphora Stamps Chronology”, Archaeologia Bulgarica 13 (2009) 55–72, is not taken into account. Of course, the Agora volume (C. Tzochev, Amphora Stamps from Thasos. The Athenian AgoraXXXVII, Princeton 2016) appeared after the Kaunos publication.
8.   Heraklean stamps were impressed on the neck of the amphoras and not on the handles like the two examples found in Kaunos. Nrs. 840‒841 should be classified as unidentified. Such incuse stamps are very common in the Chalkidike in the 4th c. BC.
9.   Rhodian: nrs. 910‒915, 918, 920, 921, 924‒936. Unknown provenance: nrs. 919, 922, 923, 937, 938. Nr. 909 is connected to Knidos, 916 to Pamphylia, and 917 to Kos.
10.   For example: absence of smooth breathing on Ephranor in nr. 333, on Agrianiou in nrs. 353 and 397 etc., four brackets after the reading in nr. 569. For the conventions, see, for example, G. Jöhrens, Amphorenstempel im Nationalmuseum von Athen. Zu den von H.G. Lolling aufgenommenen "unedierten Henkelinschriften", Mainz 1999, p. 9.
11.   Schmaltz is obviously well aware of this need, as in 2012 he published also the Attisch-schwarzfigurige und attisch-rotfigurige Importe von der Palästra-Terrasse in Kaunos (Asia Minor Studien 68).

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