Thesis abstract ‘Amphorae: The Plastic Bags of the Ancient Mediterranean. A Detailed Catalogue of Some Amphorae from the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures’
03rd May 2014
BAncHist(Hons), Department of Ancient History, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, Sydney, May 2013
In the ancient Mediterranean ships provided the most economical means of transporting bulk cargoes, in particular those commodities essential to the upkeep of a civilised lifestyle. All too many voyages, however, ended in tragedy, providing in this melancholy way invaluable evidence for shipping lanes, trade routes and the commodities being transported. Whilst little remains of the commodities themselves, the ceramic wares they were packaged in offer much information for the study of antique trade. The most common of these bulk containers was the amphora, used to carry indispensable agricultural produce in vast quantities from one end of the known world to the other and everywhere in between. As one of the fundamental transport mechanisms in antiquity, amphorae played a large role in both interregional large-scale trade, and the local agricultural and domestic markets. This dissertation examined four amphorae recently acquired by the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures to inquire into their geographical origins, date, usage and distribution patterns. This led to a synthesis of the data gathered and allowed extrapolations to be created from that data, including the creation of projected trade routes for each type of amphora, the calculation and analysis of the efficiency of each amphora, a discussion of the differences between amphora trade on a cabotage or tramping basis as compared to a direct and anticipated movement, an examination of amphorae’s role in the greater ancient economy, and a discussion regarding the potential future of amphorology.