Amphorae are important sources for the reconstruction of trade relationships, agricultural production and habits of consumption. They were containers for a variety of goods, in particular wine, oil, fish products and fruits, including dates and olives. Traded over long distances, they enable the reconstruction of economic networks, yet also provide decisive information about regional crop production and, to a lesser degree, also about livestock farming, in particular fish breeding. Finally, they are also indicators of the prosperity and cultural identity of consumers.

Byzantine amphorae from Ephesos

During the Byzantine era Ephesos remained integrated within a Mediterranean trade network, which allowed it to transport into the city agricultural goods over long distances in containers produced for that purpose, mostly amphorae, and also to distribute products from its own region.

The goal of the investigation is an evaluation of the amphora finds of the Byzantine period in Ephesos, taking into consideration questions of consumer behaviour of differing social classes, as well as the trade network of the city against the background of large-scale social transformations over the course of the Byzantine era. Amphorae have been selected from find-sites of various functions, and on this basis, whether a specific consumer behaviour can be deduced will be examined.

Particular attention is paid to the destructions of the 7th century. New research results attest for Ephesos, in spite of the significant decrease in population, a settlement continuum as well as a continually functioning system of harbour, city and hinterland. Agricultural production in the surroundings of Ephesos also appears to have continued unbroken and the provision of the city guaranteed. Nevertheless, wine was no longer traded in the traditional Late Roman Amphora 3, but rather in the course of the 7th century new standardised vessel forms were adopted in Ephesos, and these will be analysed as part of the project.

Shipwreck »Illes Formigues 2« (Palamós, Spanien)

The coastal region of north-east Spain and southern France is one of the most important regions for underwater archaeology in the Mediterranean. In the context of a cooperation with the Centre d’Arqueologia Subaquàtica de Catalunya (CASC), since 2018 the amphorae from a shipwreck have been evaluated. They originated without exception from the region of Cádiz in southern Spain and served for the transportation of products from fish-processing enterprises.

A first assessment of the finds has revealed that the ship including its cargo probably foundered between 20 and 10 B.C. The preliminary appraisal of the ship’s construction suggests that it was built in Italy. The combined evaluation of construction type and ship’s cargo will provide a contribution, taking into consideration the find-location, to the reconstruction of trade relations and trading routes in the early Roman imperial period. Thus, the port of departure of this midsize ancient cargo ship was probably Gades-Cádiz, whereas the destination port is assumed to be in what is today southern France. From there, the transport amphorae would have been traded by ship over one of the known river routes further to Aquitaine or to the north-west of the Imperium Romanum. The ceramic find-spectrum of early Augustan military camps suggest that the cargo from the shipwreck »Illes Formigues 2« was intended to supply provisions for the Roman troops stationed along the Rhine.

Principal investigator


    Byzantine amphoras


    since 2017


    Ship wreck



    since 2019