Rhodian amphora trade in Arabia (poster)
Keywords:pre-Islamic Arabia, Rhodes, Mleiha, Amphora, amphora stamps
Pre-Islamic Arabia was an important producer as well as an importer of wines. Among these imports were wines from Rhodes. The Greek island was a major wine producer from the late fourth century BC to the beginning of the second century AD and used characteristic wine amphora. Both handles were stamped with the names of the manufacturers and annually elected priests or civil servants. The advance in the stamps’ identification provides unique opportunities to establish their production date and ascribe them to specific ateliers. The export of Rhodian amphorae to Arabia is documented by finds from sites such as Faylaka, Thāj, and Mleiha, but they remain for the most part insufficiently published. Yet they represent one of the rare occasions when Hellenistic pottery production can be accurately dated. When statistically relevant numbers are identified this can provide an insight into trade route patterns. Amphorae were in essence transport containers but they were not simply discarded. Even though only some bear graffiti, many show repairs and alterations, such as the removal of spikes and even secondary glazing, indicating that they were sometimes regarded as valuable assets. Rhodian amphorae are promising tools for the study of trade routes of the Hellenistic era. The Rhodian Amphora Trade in Arabia (RATAR) project is an effort to collect the available data on Rhodian amphorae. Mleiha (Sharjah, UAE), at present one of the rare sites where significant numbers have been studied, is presented as a test case. Rhodian amphorae were systematically placed in third- to first-century BC tombs. Although their reuse is attested and their stamps can only provide post quem dates for the burials, it is possible to identify distinct chronological area shifts within the graveyard.
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Archaeopress Publishing, Oxford, UK