Return to Wine
The amphora used in trade is a terracotta vessel characterized by its two carrying handles (from whence the name) and narrow neck. The pointed foot allowed them to be stored upright, either by being stacked together or positioned in sand or soft ground. The replacement of amphorae, which were airtight, by wooden barrels in the second century AD meant that vintage wines would not reappear until the seventeenth century, with the development of the glass bottle and cork.
By the first century BC, the Romans were distributing wine, as well as other commodities, throughout the Mediterranean in amphorae known as Dressel 1. By the end of the century, this type had been replaced by Dressel 2-4, which were much lighter and had a greater volume-to-weight ratio (as much as 30%). They continued in use until the end of the first century AD, when there was a precipitous drop in wine exports.
The typology of Roman amphorae was established by Heinrich Dressel in 1879, using the painted inscription (titulus pictus) that appeared on many of the amphorae that held fish sauce or salted fish, and arranging them by shape.
The amphorae are in the National Museum of Archaeology (Tarragona, Spain).