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The Transport Amphorae and Trade of Cyprus

The Transport Amphorae and Trade of Cyprus

Edited by Mark L. Lawall and John Lund (Gösta Enbom Monographs 3). Pp. 244, figs. 165, tables 6. Aarhus University Press, Aarhus 2013. $40. ISBN 978-87-7124-213-3 (cloth).

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The book under review is the third volume in the Gösta Enbom Monographs series, which focuses on the research of transport amphoras and trade in Cyprus to provide new information on the economic history of the island. Lawall and Lund, the organizers of the Canadian and Danish Institutes at Athens workshop and also the editors of the volume, are scholars with great experience and knowledge of transport amphora issues and the economic dimensions they bring to the study of the ancient societies. The book comprises case studies produced by 17 academics dealing with issues related to the production and distribution of Cypriot transport amphoras, in conjunction with imported amphoras, retrieved from excavations or surveys conducted in Cyprus itself but also from shipwrecks in the wider marine region. The chronological span of the book is Archaic to Late Roman, with most essays dealing with the Roman period. The inclusion of essays from at least the Late Bronze Age would have provided an even more comprehensive analysis and thus would have been welcomed. Nevertheless, the application of quantitative data in association with other available information makes for an in-depth understanding of long-distance trade and exchange networks, particularly in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Bekker-Nielsen discusses road transport in the hinterland of Cyprus in an interesting article, which includes useful quantitative calculations for the better understanding of the amount and type of agricultural products that were transported by wheeled vehicles, depending on the population density and consumer behavior. Greene, Leidwanger, and Özdaş deal with maritime routes as evidenced by the three shipwrecks of Kekova Adası, Kepçe Burnu, and Çaycağız Koyu, which contain similar, probably Cypriot in origin, “basket handle” amphoras and mortaria. Their presence with Corinthian amphoras and others from workshops in the southeast Aegean suggests a wide trade network in the eastern Mediterranean since at least the seventh century B.C.E.

The characteristic “basket-handle” amphora, produced from the seventh to the third centuries B.C.E., was mainly fashioned in Cyprus and in some other centers of the eastern Mediterranean, including the coastal city of Kelenderis in Rough Cilicia, as argued by the excavator, Zoroğlu. Similar amphoras from the third century B.C.E. have also been found in Euesperides in Cyrenaica. Göransson interprets their presence there as a result of trade contacts with Ptolemaic Egypt.

An interesting interpretation is given by Lawall for two amphoras found in Tomb 80 in Marion. One is Late Archaic, with similar examples in the southern Ionia workshops or the region of Miletus; the other imitates the shape of the northern Aegean amphoras of the third quarter of fourth century B.C.E. The presence of a prefiring graffito in the Cypro-syllabic script on the first amphora places its manufacture in a workshop from Caria or Cyprus. The second one, because of its clay composition, is considered a Cypriot imitation. The presence of such amphoras as offerings in the grave of an elite person is explained by his having a local monopoly on the importation of consumer goods.

In the Ptolemaic period, the commercial ties between Cyprus and Egypt were very close, not only because of the military requirements of the Ptolemies but also the rich natural resources of the island. As a direct result of maritime contacts among Rhodes, Cyprus, and Alexandria, Cankardeş-Şenol and Kaan Şenol explain the presence of Cypriot amphoras together with an abundance of Rhodian ones in Alexandria. Then again, Cypriot amphoras of the third century B.C.E.—mainly products from Kourion—have been found, according to Finkielsztejn, at various locations in Israel. Barker and Dobosz evaluate the presence of Rhodian amphoras in Hellenistic Cyprus as dependent on the prevailing winds and currents, as well as the Ptolemaic political alliance once more. The first author stresses the important role played by the harbor at Paphos in his interpretation of commercial contacts between Rhodes and Alexandria. Dobosz analyzes patterns in the presence of Rhodian amphoras in Cyprus during the Hellenistic period, a time of intense changes for the island.

The imported amphoras recovered at Nea Paphos and Amathus, and dating from the first century B.C.E. to the third century C.E., illustrate contacts for the first locale with production centers in the western Mediterranean and for the second with the eastern Mediterranean. Kaldeli assesses the different patterns and exchange processes that led to the involvement of the two cities in different commercial networks. The amphora imports (recovered by the Polish excavations in Nea Paphos) from sources in the Levant, Egypt, and the Aegean, and also from western Mediterranean ones (including Italy, Spain, and Africa), are presented in the article by Meyza and Bagińska.

Using petrological analysis, Williams and Lund seek to establish the Cypriot origin of “pinched handle” amphoras produced from the first to the fourth centuries C.E., in addition to their already proven production in Rough Cilicia. Their results, however, are not particularly encouraging, as most of the analyzed samples seem to be coming from Rough Cilicia.

Although Ephesus was one of the richest cities of the Roman empire in the eastern Mediterranean and the biggest commercial center of Asia, according to Bezeczky, the imported Cypriot amphoras are limited in number. This is the result, in his opinion, of the ability that the hinterland of Ephesus had to satisfy local demand.

Demesticha, Leidwanger, and Rautman deal with Late Roman amphoras. The most common type in the eastern and western Mediterranean during the Late Roman period is considered to be the Late Roman 1. This type is produced mainly in workshops of Cilicia, perhaps Syria too, but is also present in kilns in Cyprus (Late Roman 1B and 1C). Demesticha presents a detailed typological classification and distribution of the type from the fourth to seventh centuries C.E. Leidwanger focuses on the Late Roman amphoras known from port facilities and anchorages, as well as retrieved from navigational hazards such as reefs and promontories and their shipwrecks along the southern coast of Cyprus (the Episkopi Bay Survey). He argues that such locales represent transport stages of economic exchange. A significant number of Late Roman amphoras were recovered from the intensive survey and trial excavations along the Vasilikos Valley, a fertile area belonging to the territory of Amathus. According to Rautman, the settlements of the Vasilikos Valley enjoyed an economic boom during this period, probably due to the renewal of copper mining. Finally, Winther-Jacobsen examines the mechanisms responsible for conveying amphoras to nonagricultural sites in the hinterland, based on data from the Troodos Archaeological and Environmental Survey Project in Cyprus, an area rich in copper mines.

It is an observable fact that until recently research has focused on the important role played in Cyprus by the trade of copper and its ores and less on the import and export of agricultural products. Therefore, this book is a timely and welcome contribution on both the study of transport amphoras and the economic history of Cyprus. It admirably fulfills the targets set by the editors, reflecting as it does current scholastic trends. It deserves the attention of all those interested in these issues. The book is well illustrated: the numerous color photographs and black-and-white drawings are of very high quality.

Konstantinos Filis
Ephorate of Antiquities of Achaia

Book Review of The Transport Amphorae and Trade of Cyprus, edited by Mark L. Lawall and John Lund

Reviewed by Konstantinos Filis

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 119, No. 2 (April 2015)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1192.Filis

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