Anno Hein and Vassilis Kilikoglou

Laboratory of Archaeometry and Archaeological Materials, Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, NCSR “Demokritos”, 15310 Aghia Paraskevi, Attica, Greece

For several millennia, ceramic vessels have been used for storage and transport of a large variety of commodities, liquids, such as wine or oil, or solids, such as cereals or legumes. At latest from the Hellenistic Period (4th century BC) onwards the standard transport vessel in the Mediterranean Region was the amphora, a comparably narrow ceramic vessel with pointed base and, according to the origin of its name, two handles. Their production, usually close to the production places of the commodities, reached a high level of standardisation with characteristic vessel shapes representing origin and content. For their transport in cargo ships they were stored in several layers and, hence, they had to withstand considerable mechanical loads. In the present paper the performance of different types of East Aegean transport amphorae will be assessed simulating the structural response of three-dimensional models to typical loads by using the finite element method (FEM). The approach is tested first on models of laboratory bending tests which were performed on genuine amphora test specimens in order to estimate their mechanical properties. Simulated displacement and stress development are investigated and compared with the experimental measurements. In this way the boundary conditions, contact properties and meshing specifications can be optimized.

The FEM approach allows for evaluating specific design features or vessel shapes [1] and on the other hand for investigating damages observed in archaeological finds towards an interpretation of use and failure [2]. Static loads, such as pure weight loads in different layers in a pack of amphorae, can be simulated as well as dynamic loads, emerging for example in a cargo ship rolling in a heavy sea. All this information provides evidence for the vessels’ performance at different conditions as well as capabilities for different functions. The present paper will provide an overview of the approach combining material testing and computer modelling.

[1] A. Hein, V. Georgopoulou, E. Nodarou and V. Kilikoglou, Koan amphorae from Halasarna – Investigations in a Hellenistic amphorae production centre, Journal of Archaeological Science 35 (4), 1049-1061, 2008.

[2] A. Hein and V. Kilikoglou, Breaking Pots – Simulating design failures of transport amphorae by using the finite element method (FEM), Proceedings 1st CAA GR conference, 187-190, 2015.