Commercial Uses of Pottery
Before the modern era, the bulk of the trade conducted around the Mediterranean
periphery moved by sea. Some commodities, including marble, ivory, timber,
bullion and other metals, and perhaps even wheat, could be loaded directly
into ship hulls. Others, such as finished textiles, flax, animal hides, wool,
fruits and legumes, needed to be bailed up or bagged before shipment by sea.
Many products needed packing in individual containers both for shipping and
for land transport in wagons or on the backs of pack animals. These included
dried fish, cheeses, spices, pitch, drinking water, wine, oil
and perfume. Once delivered, grains and other commodities shipped in bulk
required storage containers. Terracotta containers ran the gamut from enormous
grain storage jars to tiny perfume flasks. Oil and wine were shipped in large
plain transport amphoras; by the 7th century BC it becomes possible to distinguish
the containers of the various wine and oil producing centers. But Greek vases
were also traded as objects of beauty. The finely decorated Corinthian vases
that turn up everywhere in 8th and 7th century contexts around the Mediterranean
and Black seas clearly possessed their own commercial value. So too did the
Athenian Black and Red Figure vessels that flooded the ancient world in the
6th and 5th centuries. (99k)
Attic Red Figure Bell Krater
ca. 430-410 BC
By the Dinos Painter
On the underside of the base of this vase are the names of three types
of vases-kraters, oxides, and pellinia-along with their unit prices. While
the krater is a familiar shape, the others are less so. The oxis and probably
the pellinion were small bowls without handles. The cost in late 5th century
Athens for a single krater was 4-1/2 obols, for a pellinion 3/8 obol,
and for an oxis 1/6 obol. The krater body depicts four youths as they
rest from the hunt.
H. 32.0; Dia. 33.5 cm. Photos by Maria Daniels for the Perseus Project.
||Attic "SOS" Transport Amphora
Early 6th century BC
Storage vessels like this example, which ended up in an Etruscan tomb
in northern Italy, were used to ship wine and olive oil around the Mediterranean
in the 7th and 6th centuries BC They get their SOS nomenclature from the
shape of the pattern decorating the neck.
H. 67.5; Dia. 45.0 cm. UM neg. S8-73379.
Rhodian Transport/Storage Amphora
ca. 100 BC
This vessel's pointed bottom was designed for transport in a ship's hull.
The handles carry partly legible stamps identifying the vase as Rhodian.
Rhodian stamps usually supply two names: one recording the endorsement
of the contents by perhaps its licensed manufacturer, the other a date
that refers to a particular annually appointed official ("in the
term of so-and-so") and a month.
H. 80.0; Dia. 35.0 cm. UM neg. S8-122515.
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