Etruria lies on the western coast of Italy. The civilization that flourished there has often been referred to as "mysterious" due to the fact that the Etruscan language has never been translated. Many inscriptions exist, most about individual family clans , but what has been revealed about their society comes from the archaeological record. A large part of the archaeological record consists of tomb goods and evidence from shipwrecks. From the excavation of both shipwrecks and land sites many amphorae have been discovered. These unique vessels give us insight into trade goods, trade routes, and economic conditions between the 7th and 3rd centuries B.C.

Through datable contexts, Fançois and Michel Py developed a typology, using fabric analysis, that can still be used to classify these amphorae. Other work has been done by Michel Gras developed his own typology based largely on shape. There are 4 major classes of vessels, each subdivided into various categories. The contents mainly centered around wine, although olive pips and pitch have also been discovered in connection with several different types of these amphorae. They are generally found along the coasts of Italy and southern France indicating a possible limit to the extent of Etruscan trade in goods carried in these containers to the western Mediterranean.

 

Type 1 and 2

Type 1 and 2

Py Type 1 and 2, Gras EMA

The difference between Types 1 and 2 lies in the fabric of the amphora. Generally, Type 2 tends to be a red or orange color while Type 1 tends to be produced from a yellowish red or cream color.

Date: These amphoras generally date from the 7th to the middle of the 6th century B.C.

Contents: Probably wine, however, on the Giglio shipwreck they were found associated with olive pips.

Sites: These amphorae have been found at Vaunage and Villevieille in France and on a number of underwater sites, including Cape Lardier, Saint-Tropez, and the shipwreck at Giglio (ca.575 B.C.), .

Production site: Vulci

 

Type 3A

Type 3B

 

 

Py Type 3A and 3B, Gras EMC

Similarly to Types 1 and 2, Type 3A can be subdivided into 5 subcategories, each distinguished by the type of fabric from which the amphora is made. Type 3A1 typically has a brown/brown-red color. Type 3A2 has a cream color. Type 3A3 consists of a red color. Type 3A4 exhibits a rose/yellowish-rose color. Finally, Type 3A5 is of a reddish-orage color. Type 3B generally tends to consist of amphoras that have a thinner shape than their 3A counterparts.

Date: The 3A1 amphoras date from the 7th to the middle of the 6th century B.C. Type 3A2 amphoras date to roughly the same time period. Type 3A3 amphoras also date to the same time period, but do not have as high of a production rate as the previous two versions. Type 3A4 amphoras are similar to Type 3A3 in both production and date. Type 3A5 dates from the end of the 7th century to the middle of the 5th century B.C.

Contents: Probably wine

Sites: These amphoras have been discovered in the region of Agde, Saint-Raphael, the shipwreck at Ecueil de Miet 3 (6th century B.C.), and the Cap d'Antibes wreck (6th century B.C.), La Couronne, Collias, Sete, Tamaris, the Rhone valley, Lattes, Montjean, and the Point Lequin 1B shipwreck (460-440 B.C.). In Italy, these amphorae have been discovered and Vulci, Poggio Bracchino, and Capua.

Production sites: Viterbo, Cerveteri, Vulci

Type 3A

Type 3A

Type 3A

Type 3A

Type 3A

Type 3A

Type 3B

Type 3B

Type 3B

Type 3B

 

Type 4

Type 4

 

Py Type 4, Gras EMD

These amphoras typically exhibit a brown/brownish-red color.

Date: These amphorae date from middle of the 6th century to the middle of the 4th century B.C.

Contents: Probably wine.

Sites: Villevieille, Grau du Roi, Bergerie Hermet, Herault, Saint-Julien, Marseille, the Grand Ribaud F shipwreck (515-475 B.C.), the Pointe Lequin 1B shipwreck (460-440 B.C.), the Sausset 1 shipwreck (450-410), and the Ile des Embiez 1 shipwreck (425-375 B.C.).

Production site: Tarquinia

 

 

In addition to the typology set forth by Py in 1974, Gras revised the typology in 1985 to meet the growing corpus of differing amphoras found on terrestrial, but primarily nautical sites. His typology is based mainly on form, whereas Py's typology was based mainly on production material. As stated above, Gras's typology coincides with Py's, but differs on two forms, EMB and EME.

 

Gras EMB

 

EMB

Date: 500-540 B.C.

Contents: Probably wine.

Sites: Bon Porte, Vulci.

Production site: Vulci

 

Gras EME

Gras EME

EME

This form is represented by three rare examples.

Date: Unknown

Contents: Probably wine.

Sites: Pyrgi and Camarine

Production site: Unknown

References

Bonfante, L. 1990. Reading the Past: Etruscan. Los Angeles and Berkley: University of California Press.

Bound, M. 1991. “A wreck of the Archaic period (c. 600 BC) off the Tuscan island of Giglio. An account of its discovery and excavation: a review of the main finds.” Enalia 1:3-36.

Gras, M. 1985. Trafics Tyrrheniens Archaiques. Rome: Ecole francaise de Rome.

Long, L., P. Pomey, and J. Sourisseau. 2002. Les Étrusques en mer. Aix-in-Provence: Musées de Marseille.

Py, F. and M. Py. 1974. "Les amphores etrusques de Vaunage et de Villevieille, Gard." Ecole Francaise de Rome Melanges 86:141-254.

 

All images from Long, Pomey, and Sourisseau (2002). For additional details, contact Joshua Daniel

Reproduction of images permitted only upon owner consent and proper citation.