Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Why Things End

Studies on the Decline and Fall of the Amphora Phenomenon

2023 - 2028
Mink van IJzendoorn


Transport amphorae are amongst the most iconic artefacts of Mediterranean archaeology. These vessels were key in storing and moving foodstuffs, wine and oil in particular. Amphorae had an extensive and enduring presence, stretching from Antiquity till the Renaissance, spreading across Afro-Eurasia and beyond. They had a lot to offer to numerous past communities. Yet this highly successful, long-lasting and widespread container tradition vanished sometime, somewhere, somehow. The amphora’s disappearance evokes essential but understudied questions. How and why did the amphora phenomenon ‘end’? What happened in its world that made this amenity obsolete? And what were the implications of its end?

Research question

1. When and where are the latest amphorae documented? And what did the last amphora generations look like?
2. How and why did the amphora tradition break down? What was the course of its disappearance? And what were its causes?
3. What were the societal implications of the end of the amphora phenomenon and the obsolescence of its affordances?
4. Is ending (vis-à-vis innovation) a fruitful perspective to interpret changes in material culture and their impact on human societies?

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