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Identification and Creation
Object Number
1992.256.184
Title
Two-handled Amphoriskos
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c. 300-600 CE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Anatolia
Period
Roman Imperial period, Late, to Early Byzantine
Culture
Roman
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/288237
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Terracotta
Technique
Wheel-made
Dimensions
actual: 29 x 16.7 x 13.9 cm (11 7/16 x 6 9/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Provenance
Louise M. and George E. Bates, Camden, ME (by 1971-1992), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1992.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Louise M. and George E. Bates
Accession Year
1992
Object Number
1992.256.184
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Small, intact amphora with remains of sealife encrusted on the surface. Narrow mouth and blunt, rounded toe. Underneath the white encrustation, the light brown clay can be seen. The encrustation encircling the round mouth is dyed with purple, either from dye the vessel would have contained or from the shells themselves.

Purple was a color reserved for upper classes and royalty in ancient times due to its great expense. The color could be extracted from the Murex shell, which was used to create the dye, but it was expensive to obtain and import these shells.
Commentary
LIVE LIKE A ROMAN: DAILY LIFE OBJECT COLLECTION

Trade was the most common form of commerce in the ancient world. Amphorae (plural of amphora) were storage vessels used to transport goods in Roman times. They were used for wine, oil, and water. They were also used for garum, a type of fish sauce highly prized by the Romans. They varied in size, but the example in this collection is smaller than most amphorae. Pieces of amphorae are still found today at sites all over the Roman world. It is rare to find them fully intact, like this one, but they are often found whole in shipwrecks that would have been carrying liquids on trade routes. The saltwater and pressure below the surface help preserve artifacts, and in some cases, the liquid inside.

The special shape of the amphora makes it easy to stack them on top of each other and on their sides in the lower decks of a ship. They would have been corked on the top, like modern-day bottles of wine. The narrow bottom part of the amphora is called the toe. It was designed like this because it can easily stand up in dirt or sand, which was an early form of refrigeration. Digging a small hole in the ground and burying the amphora to its neck would help keep its contents cool.

[Jessica Pesce 8/3/2010]
Publication History

Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 191/fig. 103

Exhibition History

Byzantine Women and Their World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/25/2002 - 04/28/2003

32Q: 3620 University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/25/2015 - 01/03/2016

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu