Roman Amphorae: a digital resource

University of Southampton, 2005 (updated 2014)

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Distinctive Features

In general, the body of Sagalassos amphorae is globular (rare examples have a slightly more plump/squat body), with the largest diameter occurring mostly in the upper half, and with a flat or lightly concave base. The neck is fairly short and constricted - with a smooth transition to the body - while the handles run from the lower shoulder to finish either onto the rim or at mid-neck. Given the general uniformity of the body, typological differentiation is mostly based on the shape of the rim but above all the handle (Corremans et al, 2009: 291, already noting more variety; Poblome et al, 2008: 1003). Recent study suggests a wider variety of form than previously assumed and the current typo-chronological framework may need revision (Bes & Vanhecke, forthcoming). Currently, however, the distinction is as follows, and partly revises the original typology by Degeest (2000: 160-162, 379-381, figs 186-193): Type 4P100 (Sagalassos Fabric 4) has twisted/torsed handles, open or closed rims that are thickened on the exterior or have an inner flange; Type 4P120 has multiple-ridged handles, with a variety of rim profiles; this also applies to Type 4P130, which has single-ridged handles; Type 4P140 has handles that are curving in section, as well as more restricted necks. No systematic research has yet been undertaken to investigate whether the Sagalassos amphorae show any morphological development during their period of manufacture, though certain variants/subtypes were not present in the library deposits that date to the later fourth century (Poblome et al, 2008: 1003). In general, the surface was smoothed and some specimens were slip-washed with a thin slip that ranges from reddish to brownish in colour. This slip, however, never covers the entire surface - only the upper half - and is irregularly applied. Some specimens have one or several horizontal grooves on the body. Stamps are extremely rare, with only three specimens attested thus far: two were stamped on the lower onset of the handle and a third on the handle proper. Slightly more common, though still rare, are graffiti. These are generally made post-cocturam; some depict crosses with or without letter(s), whilst others only letters (one or several), sometimes in ligature. A complete amphora found during the excavation of 2013 carried no less than seven graffiti, as well as leaf impressions. A conspicuous feature of the Sagalassos amphorae are the impressions of leaves on the rim, with the leaf's central nerve roughly aligned with the lip. A complete top suggests that three to four leaves were impressed, possibly depending on their size and species. Research indicates that the leaves - in so far as their mostly fragmentary state allows a secure determination - belong to two species, i.e. Styrax officinalis L. and Vitis vinifera/V. sylvestris. Given the overall character of the impressions, these must have comprised a conscious element in the manufacturing process, although their exact purpose eludes us at present (Bes & Vanhecke, forthcoming). The variety of rim profiles is considerable. Rim-neck profiles attested include: everted with a beaded lip; everted with a plain lip; everted with an exterior flange below the lip; vertical with an exterior flange below the lip; vertical with an interior ledge; offset with a interior bevelled lip; a thickened lip with a groove on top. Handles in profile: More or less curved, running from the lower shoulder to mid-neck or the rim proper. Handles in section: Most commonly the handles are circular/ridged, circular/grooved, ovoid/multiple-ridged, ovoid/single-ridged in section. Examples where the handles are crescent in section also occur. Neck:Mostly the neck is fairly low and more or less vertical, though slightly conical or hourglass-shaped specimens are also recognized. Rarely is the neck gently everted. Base: Usually flat, sometimes slightly concave. Capacity: Two complete specimens have contents of c. 12.5 and c. 15.6 litres. Height: Complete or restored examples are rare. One example, Type 4P100, has a height of c. 42 cm. An example of Type 4P120 has a height of c. 38 cm. The general impression is, however, that the variety in height is fairly restricted. Width: Complete or restored examples are rare. One example, Type 4P100, has a width (around the lower shoulder) of c. 30 cm. A Type 4P120 has a width of c. 29 cm halfway down the vessel and below the shoulder. The general impression is, however, that the variety in width is fairly restricted.
See characteristics

Date Range

These amphorae are consistently absent in early and mid-Roman deposits at Sagalassos. The earliest finds from stratigraphic contexts (the backfill deposits in the Neon library) date to the second half of the fourth century AD (Poblome et al, 2008: 1001-1002, n. 3; Corremans et al, 2009: 289). The final period of production is considered to run up to the late seventh century AD.
Search: [4th century AD] [5th century AD] [6th century AD] [7th century AD]


Raw clay analyses point to the central Aglasun Valley - c. 5-6 km south from Sagalassos - as the source of the Fabric 4-/flysch-ophiolitic clays (Neyt et al, 2012). Although archaeological survey in the Aglasun Valley has not identified evidence for production of the Sagalassos amphorae (i.e. wasters, etc.), the location of the workshop(s) is conjectured to be in the Aglasun Valley. No evidence whatsoever for the manufacture of Sagalassos amphorae has been found to date within the urban zone of Sagalassos (Poblome et al, 2008: 1002).
Search: [Eastern Mediterranean] [Western Asia Minor]


Fragments are found - in varying proportions (e.g. Poblome et al, 2010: 792) - in basically all excavation contexts of late fourth to mid-seventh century AD date within urban Sagalassos. Beyond, fragments are recognised in surveys of the territory of Sagalassos. Interestingly, amphorae that are typologically similar to the Sagalassos examples were identified during the survey of the Bereket Valley, c. 25 km southwest of Sagalassos. These, however, appear not to have been manufactured in Fabric 4 (Kaptijn et al, 2013: 86-88, figs 11-12).
Search: [Eastern Mediterranean] [Western Asia Minor]


Residue analyses of 17 samples from three rooms in the North-East Building in the Upper Agora's northeast corner at Sagalassos suggest wine in two cases. More commonly detected were traces of vegetable oil - including walnut oil - often occurring together with traces of pitch (Romanus et al, 2009). The date of these deposits falls within the second half of the sixth and first half of the seventh centuries AD, with one exception that dates to between c. AD 425-475/500 (SA-2004-NEG-99; indications of oil and pitch). Reuse and recycling should, at least theoretically, be considered. The rare instances of epigraphy on Sagalassos amphorae (mostly graffiti made post-cocturam, cf. supra) need further research to clarify whether these contain indications concerning content, and the leaf impressions (cf. supra) provide only tentative clues concerning content and the agricultural and artisanal context of manufacture (Bes & Vanhecke, forthcoming). Currently our knowledge - not only with regard to contents - mostly reflects the later stage(s) of manufacture, distribution and consumption.
Search: [Vegetable Oil ] [Wine]


Principal Contributor: Philip Bes.

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