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This article is about the type of vase. Amphora_sentence_0

For other uses, see Amphora (disambiguation). Amphora_sentence_1


MaterialAmphora_header_cell_0_1_0 Ceramic, a small minority in metal, rare instances in stone or glassAmphora_cell_0_1_1
SizeAmphora_header_cell_0_2_0 Small-volume container varying from table-top size to half the height of a human, able to be carried by one or more people.Amphora_cell_0_2_1
WritingAmphora_header_cell_0_3_0 Sometimes inscribed with an identifying mark, or, in the case of painted ware, the signature of the potter or artist and the names of the characters depicted in the scene.Amphora_cell_0_3_1
CreatedAmphora_header_cell_0_4_0 Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Middle AgesAmphora_cell_0_4_1
DiscoveredAmphora_header_cell_0_5_0 The shards are ubiquitous in any type of archaeological context. The vessels were used primarily to carry wine, which was drunk by all known peoples over Eurasia from at least the Neolithic.Amphora_cell_0_5_1
Present locationAmphora_header_cell_0_6_0 Circum-Mediterranean, Black Sea, Eurasia from the Atlantic to the Pacific.Amphora_cell_0_6_1

An amphora (/ˈæmfərə/; Ancient Greek: , amphoreús; English plural: amphorae or amphoras) is a type of container with a pointed bottom and characteristic shape and size which fit tightly (and therefore safely) against each other in storage rooms and packages, tied together with rope and delivered by land or sea. Amphora_sentence_2

The size and shape have been determined from at least as early as the Neolithic Period. Amphora_sentence_3

Amphorae were used in vast numbers for the transport and storage of various products, both liquid and dry, but mostly for wine. Amphora_sentence_4

They are most often ceramic, but examples in metals and other materials have been found. Amphora_sentence_5

Versions of the amphorae were one of many shapes used in Ancient Greek vase painting. Amphora_sentence_6

The amphora complements a vase, the pithos, which makes available capacities between one-half and two and one-half tons. Amphora_sentence_7

In contrast, the amphora holds under a half-ton, typically less than 50 kilograms (110 lb). Amphora_sentence_8

The bodies of the two types have similar shapes. Amphora_sentence_9

Where the pithos may have multiple small loops or lugs for fastening a rope harness, the amphora has two expansive handles joining the shoulder of the body and a long neck. Amphora_sentence_10

The necks of pithoi are wide for scooping or bucket access. Amphora_sentence_11

The necks of amphorae are narrow for pouring by a person holding it by the bottom and a handle. Amphora_sentence_12

Some variants exist. Amphora_sentence_13

The handles might not be present. Amphora_sentence_14

The size may require two or three handlers to lift. Amphora_sentence_15

For the most part, however, an amphora was tableware, or sat close to the table, was intended to be seen, and was finely decorated as such by master painters. Amphora_sentence_16

Stoppers of perishable materials, which have rarely survived, were used to seal the contents. Amphora_sentence_17

Two principal types of amphorae existed: the neck amphora, in which the neck and body meet at a sharp angle; and the one-piece amphora, in which the neck and body form a continuous curve upwards. Amphora_sentence_18

Neck amphorae were commonly used in the early history of ancient Greece, but were gradually replaced by the one-piece type from around the 7th century BC onward. Amphora_sentence_19

Most were produced with a pointed base to allow upright storage by embedding in soft ground, such as sand. Amphora_sentence_20

The base facilitated transport by ship, where the amphorae were packed upright or on their sides in as many as five staggered layers. Amphora_sentence_21

If upright, the bases probably were held by some sort of rack, and ropes passed through their handles to prevent shifting or toppling during rough seas. Amphora_sentence_22

Heather and reeds might be used as packing around the vases. Amphora_sentence_23

Racks could be used in kitchens and shops. Amphora_sentence_24

The base also concentrated deposits from liquids with suspended solid particles, such as olive oil and wines. Amphora_sentence_25

Amphorae are of great use to maritime archaeologists, as they often indicate the age of a shipwreck and the geographic origin of the cargo. Amphora_sentence_26

They are occasionally so well preserved that the original content is still present, providing information on foodstuffs and mercantile systems. Amphora_sentence_27

Amphorae were too cheap and plentiful to return to their origin-point and so, when empty, they were broken up at their destination. Amphora_sentence_28

At a breakage site in Rome, Testaccio, close to the Tiber, the fragments, later wetted with calcium hydroxide (calce viva), remained to create a hill now named Monte Testaccio, 45 m (148 ft) high and more than 1 kilometre in circumference. Amphora_sentence_29

Etymology Amphora_section_0

Amphora is a Greco-Roman word developed in ancient Greek during the Bronze Age. Amphora_sentence_30

The Romans acquired it during the Hellenization that occurred in the Roman Republic. Amphora_sentence_31

Cato is the first known literary person to use it. Amphora_sentence_32

The Romans turned the Greek form into a standard -a declension noun, amphora, pl. amphorae. Amphora_sentence_33

Undoubtedly, the word and the vase were introduced to Italy through the Greek settlements there, which traded extensively in Greek pottery. Amphora_sentence_34

It is remarkable that even though the Etruscans imported, manufactured, and exported amphorae extensively in their wine industry, and other Greek vase names were Etruscanized, no Etruscan form of the word exists. Amphora_sentence_35

There was perhaps an as yet unidentified native Etruscan word for the vase that pre-empted the adoption of amphora. Amphora_sentence_36

The Latin word derived from the Greek amphoreus (ἀμφορεύς), a shortened form of amphiphoreus (ἀμφιφορεύς), a compound word combining amphi- ("on both sides", "twain") and phoreus ("carrier"), from pherein ("to carry"), referring to the vessel's two carrying handles on opposite sides. Amphora_sentence_37

The amphora appears as 𐀀𐀠𐀡𐀩𐀸, a-pi-po-re-we, in the Linear B Bronze Age records of Knossos, 𐀀𐀡𐀩𐀸, a-po-re-we, at Mycenae, and the fragmentary ]-re-we at Pylos, designated by Ideogram 209 𐃨, Bennett's AMPHORA, which has a number of scribal variants. Amphora_sentence_38

The two spellings are transcriptions of amphiphorēwes (plural) and amphorēwe (dual) in Mycenaean Greek from which it may be seen that the short form prevailed on the mainland. Amphora_sentence_39

Homer uses the long form for metrical reasons, and Herodotus has the short form. Amphora_sentence_40

Ventris and Chadwick's translation is "carried on both sides." Amphora_sentence_41

Weights and measures Amphora_section_1

Main article: Amphora (unit) Amphora_sentence_42

Amphorae varied greatly in height. Amphora_sentence_43

The largest stands as tall as 1.5 metres (5 ft) high, while some were less than 30 centimetres (12 in) high - the smallest were called amphoriskoi (literally "little amphorae"). Amphora_sentence_44

Most were around 45 centimetres (18 in) high. Amphora_sentence_45

There was a significant degree of standardisation in some variants; the wine amphora held a standard measure of about 39 litres (41 US qt), giving rise to the amphora quadrantal as a unit of measure in the Roman Empire. Amphora_sentence_46

In all, approximately 66 distinct types of amphora have been identified. Amphora_sentence_47

Further, the term also stands for an ancient Roman unit of measurement for liquids. Amphora_sentence_48

The volume of a Roman amphora was one cubic foot, c. 26.026 L. Amphora_sentence_49

Production Amphora_section_2

Roman amphorae were wheel-thrown terracotta containers. Amphora_sentence_50

During the production process the body was made first and then left to dry partially. Amphora_sentence_51

Then coils of clay were added to form the neck, the rim, and the handles. Amphora_sentence_52

Once the amphora was complete, the maker then treated the interior with resin that would prevent permeation of stored liquids. Amphora_sentence_53

The reconstruction of these stages of production is based primarily on the study of modern amphora production in some areas of the eastern Mediterranean. Amphora_sentence_54

Amphorae often were marked with a variety of stamps, sgraffito, and inscriptions. Amphora_sentence_55

They provided information on the production, content, and subsequent marketing. Amphora_sentence_56

A stamp usually was applied to the amphora at a partially dry stage. Amphora_sentence_57

It indicates the name of the figlina (workshop) and/or the name of the owner of the workshop. Amphora_sentence_58

Painted stamps, tituli picti, recorded the weight of the container and the contents, and were applied after the amphora was filled. Amphora_sentence_59

Classification Amphora_section_3

The first systematic classification of Roman amphorae types was undertaken by the German scholar Heinrich Dressel. Amphora_sentence_60

Following the exceptional amphora deposit uncovered in Rome in Castro Pretorio at the end of the 1800s, he collected almost 200 inscriptions from amphorae and included them in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Amphora_sentence_61

In his studies of the amphora deposit he was the first to elaborate a classification of types, the so-called "Dressel table", which still is used today for many types. Amphora_sentence_62

Subsequent studies on Roman amphorae have produced more detailed classifications, which usually are named after the scholar who studied them. Amphora_sentence_63

For the neo-Phoenician types see the work by Maña published in 1951, and the revised classification by van der Werff in 1977–1978. Amphora_sentence_64

The Gallic amphorae have been studied by Laubenheimer in a study published in 1989, whereas the Cretan amphorae have been analyzed by Marangou-Lerat. Amphora_sentence_65

Beltràn studied the Spanish types in 1970. Amphora_sentence_66

Adriatic types have been studied by Lamboglia in 1955. Amphora_sentence_67

For a general analysis of the Western Mediterranean types see Panella, and Peacock and Williams. Amphora_sentence_68

History Amphora_section_4

Prehistoric origins Amphora_section_5

Ceramics of shapes and uses falling within the range of amphorae, with or without handles, are of prehistoric heritage across Eurasia, from the Caucasus to China. Amphora_sentence_69

For example, the kvevri, common in the Republic of Georgia and the Caucasus, may be traced back to approximately 6000 BC. Amphora_sentence_70

Amphorae dated to approximately 4800 BC have been found in Banpo, a Neolithic site of the Yangshao culture in China. Amphora_sentence_71

Amphorae first appeared on the Phoenician coast at approximately 3500 BC. Amphora_sentence_72

In the Bronze and Iron Ages amphorae spread around the ancient Mediterranean world, being used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as the principal means for transporting and storing grapes, olive oil, wine, oil, olives, grain, fish, and other commodities. Amphora_sentence_73

They were produced on an industrial scale until approximately the 7th century AD. Amphora_sentence_74

Wooden and skin containers seem to have supplanted amphorae thereafter. Amphora_sentence_75

They influenced Chinese ceramics and other East Asian ceramic cultures, especially as a fancy shape for high-quality decorative ceramics, and continued to be produced there long after they had ceased to be used further west. Amphora_sentence_76

Ancient Greece: fancy shapes for painting Amphora_section_6

Further information: Ancient Greek vase painting and Pottery of ancient Greece Amphora_sentence_77

Besides coarse amphorae used for storage and transport, the vast majority, high-quality painted amphorae were produced in Ancient Greece in significant numbers for a variety of social and ceremonial purposes. Amphora_sentence_78

Their design differs vastly from the more functional versions; they are typified by wide mouth and a ring base, with a glazed surface and decorated with figures or geometric shapes. Amphora_sentence_79

They normally have a firm base on which they can stand. Amphora_sentence_80

amphorae were used as prizes in the Panathenaic Festivals held between the 6th century BC to the 2nd century BC, filled with olive oil from a sacred grove. Amphora_sentence_81

Surviving examples bear the inscription "I am one of the prizes from Athens", and usually depict the particular event they were awarded for. Amphora_sentence_82

Painted amphorae were also used for funerary purposes, often in special types such as the loutrophoros. Amphora_sentence_83

Especially in earlier periods, outsize vases were used as grave markers, while some amphorae were used as containers for the ashes of the dead. Amphora_sentence_84

By the Roman period vase-painting had largely died out, and utilitarian amphorae were normally the only type produced. Amphora_sentence_85

Greek amphora types Amphora_section_7

Various different types of amphorae were popular at different times: Amphora_sentence_86

Neck amphora (c. 6th–5th century BC) Amphora_section_8

On a neck amphora, the handles are attached to the neck, which is separated from the belly by an angular carination. Amphora_sentence_87

There are two main types of neck amphorae: Amphora_sentence_88


There are also some rarer special types of neck amphora, distinguished by specific features, for example: Amphora_sentence_89


  • the Pointed amphora, with a notably pointed toe, sometimes ending in a knob-like protrusionAmphora_item_1_2
  • the Loutrophoros, used for storing water during ritual ceremonies, such as marriages and funerals.Amphora_item_1_3
Belly amphora (c. 640–450 BC) Amphora_section_9

In contrast to the neck amphora, a belly amphora does not have a distinguished neck; instead the belly reaches the mouth in a continuous curve. Amphora_sentence_90

After the mid-5th century BC, this type was rarely produced. Amphora_sentence_91

The pelike is a special type of belly amphora, with the belly placed lower, so that the widest point of the vessel is near its bottom. Amphora_sentence_92

The pelike was introduced around the end of the 6th century BC. Amphora_sentence_93

Panathenaic prize amphora Amphora_section_10

Another special type is the Panathenaic prize amphora, with black-figure decoration, produced exclusively as prize vessels for the Panathenaia and retaining the black-figure technique for centuries after the introduction of red-figure vase painting. Amphora_sentence_94

Some examples bear the inscription "ΤΩΝ ΑΘΗΝΗΘΕΝ ΑΘΛΩΝ" meaning "[I am one] of the prizes from [the goddess] Athena". Amphora_sentence_95

They contained the prize of oil from the sacred olive tree of the goddess Athena for the winners of the athletic contests held to honour the goddess, and were evidently kept thereafter, and perhaps used to store wine, before being buried with the prize-winner. Amphora_sentence_96

They depicted goddess Athena on one side (as seen on the second image on this page) and the athletic event on the other side, e.g. a scene of wrestling or running contest etc. Amphora_sentence_97


  • Amphora_item_2_4
  • Amphora_item_2_5

Ancient Rome Amphora_section_11

By the Roman period utilitarian amphorae were normally the only type produced. Amphora_sentence_98

The first type of Roman amphora, Dressel 1, appears in central Italy in the late 2nd century BC. Amphora_sentence_99

This type had thick walls and a characteristic red fabric. Amphora_sentence_100

It was very heavy, although also strong. Amphora_sentence_101

Around the middle of the 1st century BC the so-called Dressel 2-4 starts to become widely used. Amphora_sentence_102

This type of amphora presented some advantages in being lighter and with thinner walls. Amphora_sentence_103

It has been calculated that while a ship could accommodate approximately 4500 Dressel 1, it was possible to fit 6000 Dressel 2-4 in the same space. Amphora_sentence_104

Dressel 2-4 were often produced in the same workshops used for the production of Dressel 1 which quickly ceased to be used. Amphora_sentence_105

At the same time in Cuma (southern Italy) the production of the cadii cumani type starts (Dressel 21-22). Amphora_sentence_106

These containers were mainly used for the transportation of fruit and were used until the middle imperial times. Amphora_sentence_107

At the same time, in central Italy, the so-called Spello amphorae, small containers, were produced for the transportation of wine. Amphora_sentence_108

On the Adriatic coast the older types were replaced by the Lamboglia 2 type, a wine amphora commonly produced between the end of the 2nd and the 1st century BC. Amphora_sentence_109

This type develops later into the Dressel 6A which becomes dominant during Augustan times. Amphora_sentence_110

In the Gallic provinces the first examples of Roman amphorae were local imitations of pre-existent types such as Dressel 1, Dressel 2-4, Pascual 1, and Haltern 70. Amphora_sentence_111

The more typical Gallic production begins within the ceramic ateliers in Marseille during late Augustan times. Amphora_sentence_112

The type Oberaden 74 was produced to such an extent that it influenced the production of some Italic types. Amphora_sentence_113

Spanish amphorae became particularly popular thanks to a flourishing production phase in late Republican times. Amphora_sentence_114

The Hispania Baetica and Hispania Tarraconensis regions (south-western and eastern Spain) were the main production areas between the 2nd and the 1st century BC due to the distribution of land to military veterans and the founding of new colonies. Amphora_sentence_115

Spanish amphorae were widespread in the Mediterranean area during early imperial times. Amphora_sentence_116

The most common types were all produced in Baetica and among these there were the Dressel 20, a typical olive oil container, the Dressel 7-13, for garum (fish sauce), and the Haltern 70, for defrutum (fruit sauce). Amphora_sentence_117

In the Tarraconensis region the Pascual 1 was the most common type, a wine amphora shaped on the Dressel 1, and imitations of Dressel 2-4. Amphora_sentence_118

North-African production was based on an ancient tradition which may be traced back to the Phoenician colony of Carthage. Amphora_sentence_119

Phoenician amphorae had characteristic small handles attached directly onto the upper body. Amphora_sentence_120

This feature becomes the distinctive mark of late-Republican/early imperial productions, which are then called neo-Phoenician. Amphora_sentence_121

The types produced in Tripolitania and Northern Tunisia are the Maña C1 and C2, later renamed van Der Werff 1, 2, and 3. Amphora_sentence_122

In the Aegean area the types from the island of Rhodes were quite popular starting from the 3rd century BC due to local wine production which flourished over a long period. Amphora_sentence_123

These types developed into the Camulodunum 184, an amphora used for the transportation of Rhodian wine all over the empire. Amphora_sentence_124

Imitations of the Dressel 2-4 were produced on the island of Cos for the transportation of wine from the 4th century BC until middle imperial times. Amphora_sentence_125

Cretan containers also were popular for the transportation of wine and can be found around the Mediterranean from Augustan times until the 3rd century AD. Amphora_sentence_126

During the late empire period, north-African types dominated amphora production. Amphora_sentence_127

The so-called African I and II types were widely used from the 2nd until the late 4th century AD. Amphora_sentence_128

Other types from the eastern Mediterranean (Gaza), such as the so-called Late Roman 4, became very popular between the 4th and the 7th century AD, while Italic productions ceased. Amphora_sentence_129

The largest known wreck of an amphorae cargo ship, carrying 6,000 pots, was discovered off the coast of Kefalonia, an Ionian island off the coast of Greece. Amphora_sentence_130

Modern use Amphora_section_12

Some modern winemakers and brewers are using amphoras to provide a different palate and tastes to their products than are available with other aging methods. Amphora_sentence_131

See also Amphora_section_13


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