TARRACONENSIS AMPHORA STAMPS FROM THE ROMAN CITY PORT OF SANISERA (MENORCA, SPAIN)

Student from Colorado College in the excavation of The Sanisera Field School, with an amphora fragment stamped with letters "FVO"

Student from Colorado College in the excavation of The Sanisera Field School, with an amphora fragment stamped with letters “FVO”

Pliny, classical author, wrote in his stories that three cities were founded in Menorca, and Sanisera is one of those. According to archaeological objects discovered and the stratigraphic sequence confirmed by excavations, this port was developed in the 1st century BC and was abandoned in the early 9th century A.D.

Since 2008, The Sanisera Field School develops archaeological excavations every year on the port of Sanitja to unearth the remains of the city. Six years of research, with the annual participation of young university students, have made possible the discovery of two buildings belonging to a monastery. One of them corresponding to an early Christian basilica built in the middle of the V century A.D.

During 2013, the campaign has focused on digging around the early Christian basilica, since the best preserved archaeological record corresponds to the decline of the Roman world, invasions stage and conquests of territories of the Roman Empire, as in Menorca by Vandals and Byzantines between V-VI centuries A.D.

With this introduction to the contents of this article, we give way to explain some fragments of pottery found in the wreckage of the Vandal occupation phase that have been classified as amphorae, produced in the territory of the Roman city of Tarraco since the end of the Ist century B.C. until the second century A.D. They had a direct and close relationship with Menorca. The amphorae were the containers of choice for transporting food and beverages by the Roman Empire either by land or sea.

3D model of a handle Tarraconensis amphora stamped with an "N" from The Sanisera Field School

3D model of a handle Tarraconensis amphora stamped with an “N” from The Sanisera Field School

The amount of Tarraconensis amphora fragments inventoried in the Sanisera dig is high. We always discover thousands of fragments and, undoubtedly, stamps are the most interesting for us. Tarraconensis amphora was mainly used for packaging wine produced on the vast estates that Rome placed across the Catalan coast (Barcelona’s current surrounding coastline) when it conquered Hispania.

Stamps are inscriptions with letters and engravings printed by the potter in any part of the amphora body when the clay was still fresh and soft, before entering the oven to cook. The inscriptions used to indicate the name of the workshop that made the amphorae. Thus, archaeologists can recognize more accurately the trade routes and the distribution of products from its place of origin, in this case the surrounding Catalan coast to Tarraco, and its final destination in the city of Sanisera and its consumers.
The inscriptions on Tarraconensis amphora stamps that we have classified in 2013 in Sanisera date from 75 B.C. to 50 A.D., and they are “FVO”, “N”, “F”, “T”, [...MAFI].

3D model in detail of the stamp "FVO" on a Tarraconensis amphora dating from 75 B.C. and 50 A.D. in the Sanisera excavation

3D model in detail of the stamp “FVO” on a Tarraconensis amphora dating from 75 B.C. and 50 A.D. in the Sanisera excavation

 

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