Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A beautiful pottery transport amphora with a conical base, smooth body, tubular neck, collared rim, and a pair of applied handles from just under the rim to the rounded shoulder. The piriform body would have held gallons worth of precious oils used to sustain legions of Roman troops which traveled and settled in most of Western Europe and Britain. The exterior exudes a pale beige earthtone hue. Utilitarian transport vessels like this example were typically not decorated with painted designs or applied details, though some display stamped markings denoting the materials contained in each vessel. Custom museum-quality metal display stand included. Size: 13.5" W x 29.5" H (34.3 cm x 74.9 cm); 36" H (91.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Lacking its cork and pitch stopper, the original contents of this amphora are unknown; based on the globular size and shape, it was most likely used to transport olive oil (smaller ones were for stewed fruit or salted fish, while larger ones were used for wine). Amphorae formed the basis of the Roman economy as storage vessels for transporting goods throughout the Empire, with examples found from North Africa to Britain. The pointed base on this one is standard and was intended for storage in Roman warehouses in soft ground and for transport on ships by placing it through a specially-designed rack and roping it through the handles to others. This vessel likely came from North Africa, a major site of olive oil production (alongside Spain and France) in the Roman economy. This oil was used for cooking, lighting, and, in some cases, bathing; one estimate suggests that each Roman legion consumed 1370 amphorae of olive oil per year!
Provenance: private Houston, Texas, USA collection; ex-Bonhams, London, Knightsbridge Antiquities Auction (May 8, 2013, part of lot 84); ex-The Sir Daniel Donohue collection, California, USA. The collection was started by the oil and cement tycoon Daniel Murphy in the 19th century and inherited by his daughter and son-in-law, Sir Daniel Donohue and Countess Bernardine (d. 1968), who then added to the family collection
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Most of neck and upper portion of each handle reattached with small amounts of new material and resurfacing along break lines. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age and use, with small chips to rim, handles, body, and base. Some small areas of discoloration and light encrustations, otherwise excellent. Nice archaeological deposits, root marks, and light encrustations throughout.