In Between Cultures: Find Contexts, Iconography and Functions of Nolan Amphorae

→ Svenja Neumann

Already in Archaic times Attic workshops developed a number of strategies in order to conquer new foreign markets and be able to compete with other exporters. Among others, they acquired the forms of vessels from Etruscan Bucchero vessels and investigated buyer’s preferences (probably by means of traders). Particularly by means of technological innovations – the red-figure technique – they asserted themselves against other suppliers.

When the production of the Attic red-figured Nolan Amphorae (a type of neck amphorae) in the 5th century BC began, Attica could look back on a long period of well established trade connections to Etruria. Surprisingly the small-sized vessels of Nolan type weren’t exported to Etruria, but in large quantities to Campania and Sicily. Conversely it is noteworthy that particularly black-figured neck amphorae were preferably consumed in the Etruscan region, but have rarely been exported to Campania. Possible reasons for this substantial decline of imports of Attic neck amphorae to Etruria could be the battle of the Etruscans against the Greeks at Kyme/Cumae in 474 BC, which caused a weakening of the Etruscan economy and power, as well as the general stagnation of ceramic imports to Etruria during the 5th century BC. But the high import quota of other forms of Attic vases until almost the end of the 5th century BC makes this improbable. This shift of the geographical foci of the export trade of Nolan Amphorae can therefore be less ascribed to political or economic problems, but rather has to be attributed to changes in taste and consumers’ needs.

These observations lead to the question which motivations and mechanisms trade is based on. To understand the complexity of these aspects, the Nolan Amphorae are analyzed in regard to:

a)    the producers (Were the vessels produced for specific markets?? Were individual workshops specialized on the production of these vases and how is this specialization expressed [division of labor and its organization] How many vessels were produced [quantities also in comparison with other products of the same workshop]?)

b)     the consumers (Who consumed the products? What are the reasons for their acquisition [function, form or iconography] How did the consumer use the vessels [find spot and local imitations]?)

c)     the diffusion pattern (In which regions were the vessels predominantly consumed and why?)

d)    the distribution mechanisms (Which retailers were responsible for the distribution [trademarks and vessel prices]? Did some traders work along with special workshops?)

e)    the trade routes and their structures (geographical situation, infrastructure, mode of transportation, networking of individual cities and regions).

This approach will illustrate national networks (Attica ↔ Etruria, Campania and Sicily), regional network structures (see, for instance, the high find density of Nolan Amphorae in Nola and Capua) as well as the economic cycle (production, distribution and consumption) of a particular vessel form and will provide a new methodological and fundamental basis for further research.





Figures: Nolanische Amphora Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum Inv.-Nr. 77 (Foto J. Schubert)



Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Frank Rumscheid, Prof. Dr. Winfried Schenk