An amphora is a type of container with a characteristic size and shape. Amphorae first seem to have originated in the early Neolithic Period. Amphorae were used for many purposes like storage or transportation of many different products, both dry and liquid. We all associate amphorae with wine and it is true, of the many products stored in them wine was the most common. Mostly, amphorae were ceramic but some examples have been found in metal or even in some other materials. It is calculated that amphorae, depending on their size, can have a capacity of up to half a ton (around 100 pounds). An amphora has two long handles that are joined to the body of the amphora at the shoulders and at the long neck. The neck of an amphora is narrow, so the person pouring from it has to hold it by its bottom and a handle. But the size is an important factor: bigger amphorae have been found with three or four handles so that they were easier to lift. Throughout history two types of amphorae have been detected. One find was a whole intact amphora, where the body and the neck form a continuous curve, and another was a one-neck amphora in which the body and neck meet at a sharp angle. Nowadays, amphorae are useful to maritime archaeologists. They can indicate the period of time in which they were made and also their geographic reference or origin. In some of them archaeologists found their contents still present and preserved. Such finds provide archaeologists with information on the mercantile system and foodstuffs.
One other interesting fact is that because amphorae were so cheap, when they reached their destination they were broken up. In Rome, Italy, there is a breakage site in Testaccio which, due to the amount of broken parts of amphorae through the time, became a hill. The fragments have become ground fertile with calcium hydroxide. The hill is named Monte Testaccio, and it is 45km high and 1km wide.