An amphora is a type of container with a characteristic size and shape.
Amphorae first seem to have originated in the early Neolithic Period.
Amphorae were used for many purposes like storage or transportation of
many different products, both dry and liquid.
We all associate amphorae with wine and it is true, of the many products
stored in them wine was the most common. Mostly, amphorae
but some examples have been found in metal or even in some other
materials. It is calculated that amphorae, depending on their size, can
have a capacity of up to half a ton (around 100 pounds). An amphora has
two long handles that are joined to the body of the amphora at the
shoulders and at the long neck. The neck of an amphora is narrow, so the
person pouring from it has to hold it by its bottom and a handle. But
the size is an important factor: bigger amphorae have been found with
three or four handles so that they were easier to lift. Throughout
history two types of amphorae have been detected. One find was a whole
intact amphora, where the body and the neck form a continuous curve, and
another was a one-neck amphora in which the body and neck meet at a
sharp angle. Nowadays, amphorae are useful to maritime archaeologists.
They can indicate the period of time in which they were made and also
their geographic reference or origin. In some of them archaeologists
found their contents still present and preserved. Such finds
provide archaeologists with information on the mercantile system and
One other interesting fact is that because amphorae were so cheap, when
they reached their destination they were broken up. In Rome, Italy,
there is a breakage site in Testaccio which, due to the amount of broken
parts of amphorae through the time, became a hill. The fragments have
become ground fertile with calcium hydroxide. The hill is named Monte
Testaccio, and it is 45km high and 1km wide.