The Temporary Exhibition of the Mechanism and the Antikythera shipwreck...>>

Transport amphorae

Material: Clay
Provenance: Antikythera shipwreck. From the material retrieved in 1900-1901 (inv. no. 27996, 28003) and in 1976 (inv. no. 30993)
Date: Mid 1st century BC
Dimensions: Height: 0,78m. (Ephesian amphora of the Nikandros Group, inv. no. 30993), 0,79m. (amphora from Rhodes, inv. no. 27996), 0,52m. (amphora from Kos, inv. no. 28003)
Inv. no: Athens, National Archaeological Museum 30993, 27996, 28003
Room:Temporary Exhibitions Wing, Room II

Intact pointed-toe commercial amphorae from Ephesos (the Nikandros Group), Rhodes, and Kos. The association of several amphora types with specific regions has allowed tentative classification. Due to their peculiar shape, they could be lined up and stacked in the hull of a ship in such a way that shifting of the cargo could be prevented. The amphora was the chief vase for transporting liquid as well as solid goods.

Transport amphorae may have been loaded in a ship's hold both in the region where they were produced, as well as at a central port where products of various origins were collected either to meet local needs or for sale in other regions.

Not all amphorae carried by the ship that wrecked off Antikythera have been retrieved. Thus, their initial number cannot be determined. They were probably not gathered in the same location, since different types of amphorae have been localized in different parts of the ship. It seems that they were secondary freight. Four types of commercial amphorae are represented: those from Rhodes, Kos, Ephesos (the Nikandros Group), and Lamboglia 2. Whereas the latter type may have been used by the crew during the journey, the remaining categories should have contained products that were popular amongst the Romans, such as the brined wine mixed with seawater from Kos, or wine from Rhodes.

Rhodian amphorae are recognizable both by their angular handles and the stamps on them. They are known from many shipwrecks throughout the Mediterranean. Double handles are characteristic of the amphorae from Kos. Ephesian amphorae have a strong, outwardly flaring rim, conical grooved toe and rectangular stamps on the handles. They have been found in a number of areas, including the Athenian Agora, Corinth, Alexandreia, and Palestine. Amphorae of the Lamboglia 2 type, made on the coasts of the Adriatic, were particularly widespread in the Mediterranean during the 1st century BC. The variety of the amphorae and their coexistence in the shipwrecked cargo provide some interesting evidence about their production and circulation.

Bibliography: D. Kourkoumelis, Transport amphorae, in Õ.  altsas - Ň. Vlachogianni - P. Bouyia(eds.), The Antikythera shipwreck. ‘he ship - the treasures - the mechanism, Catalogue of the archaeological exhibition, National Archaeological Museum, April 2012 - April 2013, Athens 2012, 208-215.

Position in the museum