Punic amphorae found at Corinth: provenance analysis and implications for the study of long-distance salt fish trade in the Classical period

Abstract

The Punic Amphora Building (PAB) at Corinth, Greece, excavated in the late 1970s and dated to the mid-5th century BC, provided a remarkable archaeological context for the study of trade connections between Classical Corinth and the Punic West, based on the finding of hundreds of Punic amphorae and associated fish remains. The first studies indicated that these amphorae were mostly imported from the Straits of Gibraltar region, although the exact area/s of provenance remained undetermined. The recent macroscopic restudy of these amphorae suggested the existence of several fabrics, most probably associated with different production sites in southern Spain and/or northern Morocco. In order to verify this hypothesis, a provenance analysis of this material was performed. A total of 178 amphorae from Corinth’s PAB were analysed through a combination of thin section petrography and elemental analysis by WD-XRF. Further information was obtained from the analysis of reference materials from production areas, including amphorae from known Punic kiln sites in the western Mediterranean and associated potential raw materials for ceramic production. The results indicated that Punic Gadir, present-day Cádiz, was the main supplier of salt fish which was packaged in amphorae and shipped to Corinth in the fifth century BC, although other Punic sites, especially those located on the coast of present-day Málaga province, also participated in these commercial interactions. The results of this research are of particular importance for the study of long-distance trade networks between the eastern and the western Mediterranean in the Classical period.

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Acknowledgements

Thin sections of ceramics for petrographic analysis were made by Michalis Sakalis at the Fitch Laboratory. We are indebted to Ioulia Tzonou, Manolis Papadakis, and Christopher Pfaff (Corinth Excavations-ASCSA), as well as the other staff of the ASCSA and of the Ephoreia of Antiquities of Corinth for their continuous help and logistical support at various stages of the project. For the provision of reference samples from Spanish and Moroccan sites, we are grateful to the Museo Histórico Municipal de San Fernando, Ana Arancibia Román (Taller de Investigaciones Arqueológicas, Málaga), Bartolomé Mora Serrano (Universidad de Málaga), Víctor Martínez Hahnmüller (Universidad de Gante), Emilio Martín Córdoba (Museo de Vélez-Málaga), Mohamed Kbiri Alaoui (INSAP, Rabat) and Manuel Aragón Gómez (Gobierno de Melilla). We would like to thank also Ian Freestone (UCL), Ruth Siddall (UCL) and Ian Whitbread (University of Leicester) for their helpful observations and suggestions in the petrographic analysis. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Funding

The work of L. Fantuzzi was supported by a ‘Corinth Punic Amphora Building Project’ Research Fellowship at the Fitch Laboratory, British School at Athens.

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Supplementary Table 1

List of archaeological and geological samples analysed, and applied methods. Samples are organised by sampling site, with an indication of DMS geographical coordinates for each site (XLS 42 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Elemental composition of the 158 amphora samples from Corinth’s PAB that were subjected to WD-XRF analysis. Composition of reference samples (amphorae and clays) from western Punic kiln sites in the Bay of Cádiz, Málaga and Vélez-Málaga is also given. Concentrations of oxides (and LOI) are given in %, trace elements in ppm (XLS 86 kb)

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Fantuzzi, L., Kiriatzi, E., Sáez Romero, A.M. et al. Punic amphorae found at Corinth: provenance analysis and implications for the study of long-distance salt fish trade in the Classical period. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 12, 179 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01093-3

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Keywords

  • Amphorae
  • Corinth
  • Punic archaeology
  • Classical period
  • Petrography
  • WD-XRF