Roman amphorae

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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‐pickle (see fishing), preserved fruits, etc. Amphorae were most heavily used in long‐distance transport, esp. maritime or riverine, and are thus a good guide to regional economic activity. (Monte Testaccio is an artificial hill covering c.22,000 sq. m. (26,300 sq. yd.) in the Emporium district of Rome near the Tiber, and composed entirely of broken amphorae, mostly oil amphorae from Baetica.) 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, adds further to their value in studies of the economy. Most amphorae share a number of 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 men.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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