The Identfication of Amphora Types in Ephesus

FWF P17858

Project leader: T. Bezeczky

The new project is focused on three types of amphorae which can shed new light on certain aspects of the Roman economic history. The role Ephesus played in commerce should not be underestimated when we study the economic history of the Roman Empire. One of the most important pieces of the surviving evidence of the commerce is provided by the amphora vessels. They can be found everywhere in the Roman Empire. In addition, they offer recognizable patterns. Both the pattern and the material of the amphoraes are clues to the commerce, and, hence, to the economic history. The various aspects of the physical and typological investigation of the amphorae can tell us where they were produced, who produced them, what they contained, where they were shipped. Amphorae were used for shipping and storing the foodstuffs (primarily wine, olive-oil and fish sauce) that were regarded as indispensable for the Roman way of life. Besides, amphorae can be related to a variety of genres of written sources.

The presence of the amphorae from the Tetragonos Agora and the Terrace House 2 represent the commodities coming from the Iberian peninsula to the Black sea. Both sites have well-dated deposits in the Hellenistic/Republican and the early Imperial period. It seems likely that the focusing of attention on three outstanding areas of interest will provide answers to fairly important questions. It is certainly not true that these areas have been neglected. Quite the contrary, there are a number of unsubstantiated or partly proved theories, assumptions and guesses. But it is precisely Ephesus that may yield the crucial link to the solution. Ephesus offers an unparalleled archaeological sequence. Earlier research has determined the amphora types used in the Ephesan food trade. This raised a number of questions that can only be resolved by further, detailed analyses. There are three groups of amphorae (Rhodian, Dressel 21-22, and Hellenistic “local” amphorae) the fragments of which occur in large numbers in Ephesus. However, their origin seems to be uncertain. They may have been produced, as some scholars suggest, in various parts of the Empire. If we knew where they had been produced, we could make a modest but definite contribution the gigantic jigsaw puzzle of the economic history of the Roman Empire.