- The Technical Problems in the Productions of Amphoras -

"and Samples from the Amphoras whose origins are unknown"


My initial aim in these articles was ofcourse to introduce them to larger amount of people and take you to charming history of antiquity. Meanwhile the policemen took me to the realities of today… Anyhow,lets not mention this subject and return to our subject.

I have given you samples from the amphoras of Mediterranean and all the seas it units with. Certainly, the places these amphoras were found in and the regions they were produced in were (usually)different. However, these were the documents that indicate us the trading ways of the antiquity. You know that I presented the amphora samples of all the periods and all the regions,except for the amphoras of West Mediterranean, from my own collection. Most of the amphoras in my collection belong to the civilizations of East-Mediterranean, Aegean- İslands, Marmara and Black Sea.  

The reason why the amphoras of West Mediterranean ( Italy,Spain,Portugal,North Africa) are few in number is that we are far from them,the amphora productions in these places began later in comparison to the east and the production was not carried out that much. But it is a known fact that the amporas of East Mediterranean are older and more precious than the ones in west. For instance, while the ampora masters in East Mediterranean were at the zenith of their mastery, still primitive and bulky amphoras were being used in Roman Empire in even 200 centuries later.

I will beriefly mention the technical problems of amphoras and will give some samples photographs of the amphoras whose mystery couldnt be completely solved yet. I hope these writings are useful and have helped you to love them more.
I know you have not got bored. Already, not to make anybody bored, I have avoided giving vain and technical information as much as possible when telling you about the amphoras. Neither I have mentioned the technical features of the amphoras I have written about, nor I have stated their size, volume or length.
In old ages, the biggest technical problem in making amphoras was baking. It was certainly very significant to find the fitting soil and clay, to prepare the mud and mash it fairly good, rest and bowdlerize it form unwanted materials and to supplement the additives providing resistance.

However, baking was a problem by itself. Because, it was not possible always to be able to reach a heat such as 900’ -1000’ in amphora ovens. This was consequently increasing the leakage costs. Even in my collection today, there are some amphoras that exfoliate and melt as they havent been baked in the adequate heat. Already,the greatest mastery in an amphora was measured according to its being light and baked in high heat (strong) apart from its aesthetics and functional value. And the uncontrolled extra heat in the oven was burning,melting and deforming the amphora.


  Another technical problem was the insulation of amphoras. That’s why amphoras were being glazed (to vitrify and firnisleme?) and their permeability was tried to reduce to the least level. Still, it was not let go at all of those, the inside of most of the amphoras were being rosined that was an isolation material with a lovely smell. It was seen that the inside of some amphoras were also being pitched, very few though.




And Mr. Ersin Doger states that the inside of an amphora that is analyzed is covered with grape molasses boiled well. We can assume that honey and honey candle are also used in insulation of inside for the same purpose..

Another technical problem was closing the amphora’s mouth or bunging it. Because if this problem can not be solved, it means that the production in amphora will be poured out or go sour by taking air into. Therefore, corks made from raw clay or cooked soil were used over the leaf or cloth placed on the mouth of the amphora. Besides, many materials such as corks, pine skin, pine cone, volcano stone and wood were used for this purpose.
But unfortunately these taps could not reach our day.

Another matter when baking and using the amphoras was to hold them upright and Mr. Hamit Kara, my reader from Sinop who is a master on amphoras writes the explanation and interpretation of this situation in the letter he has sent to me :
“Amphoras are placed on a bracelet when entering to ovens. The cooked amphoras are standing on these bracelets in the places they reach as well. It seems that this bracelet was not seized and perhaps that is why exhibitions are made on 3-legged iron materials even in museums. These legs are about in these sizes for the amphoras of Sinop :

Height : between 12-20 cm
Top width : between 10-16 cm
Bottom width : 12-18 cm

Certainly, in addition to these subjects,carrying the amphoras in the sea and on land, stocking and getting them stacked neatly, conserving the productions they carry and filling-emptying operations were among the important problems.

The problems of reaching a form that become the registered trademark of a region or production, preserving it from imitations, special sealings of productor, manager or traders, and the matters of change in capacity standards with the economic and political agreements in Mediterranean world at times, are other examination issues.

Right along with the amphoras whose origins we know today, there are also lots of amphoras undefined,that researhcers work on or haven’t met yet. I will continue to give examples from these in the next number as I did in previous one.

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