Roman Amphora Contents International Interactive Conference (RACIIC)

Reflecting on Maritime Trade in foodstuffs in Antiquity


In tribute to Miguel Beltrán Lloris



Transport amphora are commonly used by historians of the ancient economy as indicators for the production of, and trade in, foodstuffs – essentially olive oil, wine and garum (salted fish) – in, from and to different locations in the Roman Empire. The relationship between the areas of production and ceramic typologies and the contents of the containers is still a matter of debate amongst specialists. As a result, mistaken associations ensue and difficulties with the interpretation of the evidence are common. On the other hand, the last two decades have witnessed spectacular advances in archaeometric techniques, which are now capable of contributing to the identification of the organic residues that are often preserved in the amphora. Amphora appear in abundant quantities in Atlantic and Mediterranean contexts but the recording of them is not systematic. There has been some progress in terms of multidisciplinarity, but the information is not always easy to find and is in dire need of re-organisation. For this reason, the main targets of this meeting are as follows:

  • To examine the methodological problems associated with sea trade in amphora-contained foodstuffs during Antiquity, and its identification on the basis of historical, archaeological and archaeometric criteria.
  • To compile and update our knowledge of the contents of Roman amphora by province and region.
  • To generate the necessary synergies to launch an international and multidisciplinary research group within the context of the European strategy Horizon 2020.



This scientific event is aimed at stimulating interdisciplinary debate and the active involvement of participants. For this reason, a format inspired by the Interactive Conference model has been chosen. On the one hand, there will be a series of key-lectures, delivered on invitation, by international specialist groups. They will focus on constructing a synthetic review of the state of the question of amphora contents by region. A discussion will follow these lectures under the direction of one of the lecturers (the lecture and discussion will take 30 minutes each). On the other hand, the conference also aims to promote discussion between all relevant branches of knowledge (archaeologists, archaeometrists, zooarchaeologists, epigraphists, historians, chemistry specialists, etc.). International specialists in each of these areas will conduct the discussions, dealing with the historical and methodological problems associated with the contents of amphora, the design of research protocols, and the aims for the future, in order to develop a study programme for the next few years. Once agreement is reached, areas that demand further attention and future avenues of research will be synthesised at the end of the meetings. The speakers will deliver their lectures to the organisers before 31 July 2015.


Additionally, the programme includes a monographic session for the presentation and discussion of 50 posters. All presentations (invited lectures and posters) accepted by the scientific committee will be published in a peer-reviewed volume, along with the proceedings, by Archaeopress (British Archaeological Reports) in 2016. The volume will also include a synthesis of the debates and the main conclusions reached. Final papers for publication must be submitted before 30 November 2015.