Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Amphora Cemetry

Monte Testaccio on the Banks of the river Tiber in Rome is famous for being an artificial hill built from the shards (testae) of an estimated 53 million broken terracotta amphorae between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. It gives us a graphic picture of the scale of Roman imports from the empire, especially of olive oil and wine – and of course amphorae - a great deal of which came from Spain.

The amphora cemetry at Puerto Real as left by the road builders (
Not so well known is that Puerto Real, not far from Jerez, has its own “amphora cemetery” stretching from the town to the banks of the river San Pedro. Unfortunately it has suffered damage from road works. During the Roman era there was quite a sophisticated pottery industry here producing amphorae from the high quality local clay in which to export wine and oil to the known world. 

A first century wine amphora (foto:EFE)
Many shards found in Rome and elsewhere bear the mark “Vinum Gaditanum” or wine from Cádiz – Sherry. There are even records of the price: the equivalent of €0.02 per arroba (16.66 litres)! The wine must have been good for Julius Caesar is thought to have had a house in Jerez where he drank the local wine with his friend Balbus and even gave it to his soldiers.

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