Le Centre Alexandrin
d'Étude des Amphores

The Alexandrian Centre for Amphora Studies

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CEAlex - USR 3134
Anses timbrées
Stamped Handles
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CAEA Library
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On-line resources
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Anses d'amphores timbrées /
Stamped amphora handles

Méthodologie /
Construction de la base de données /
Building the database
Définition des matrices /
Defining the matrices
Catalogue des matrices des timbres des eponymes rhodiens /
Catalogue of matrices of stamps of Rhodian eponyms
Timbres amphoriques de Délos/Amphora stamps of Delos

Documentation (Database) of Amphora Stamps

Our studies on the documentation of stamped handles in the collection started with those classified as "Early Rhodian-Button Type Stamps" which are now known to have been produced in the Rhodian Peraea on the south-western coast of Anatolia (1). Documentation studies after this group were followed by Rhodian eponym and fabricant stamps, Chian stamps and the stamps of Nikandros Group and Koan stamps. After taking notes about each stamp, a rubbing of the inscription on a cigarette paper is made and a digital photograph of each stamp is taken to add to the file to constitute a complete database on amphora stamps. For the stamps of different origins, different files have been created to allow the researcher to reach the stamp or to get the necessary information in question easily. The other reason for creating varied databases is because of the matrix systems applied to each different group. Although the starting point and the logic of the matrix system are not entirely different among the groups, the difference of groups in origin causes there to be some diversity in the matrix numbers containing the origin of each handle, the quality of the fragment (i.e. amphora or lagynos for Chian stamps), the attribution of the stamp to a person (eponym, fabricant, to a person of unknown function and varied homonyms), extra information obtained from the stamp (i.e. month-names for Rhodian stamps) and the numbers given to each different impression.

           For the documentation and database of stamped handles, we have used FileMaker Pro 8.5, which provides the most effective storing of information in varied forms (text, photo, drawing) and is not a complicated software for searching and comparing the data. Of course, different database softwares can be used, but for all the documentation of the CEAlex FileMaker is preferred in order to share data easily. This software allows one to create and to multiply forms with any information one may wish to store. For a storage database, the necessary titles and the characteristics of the information must be decided to create a kind of page (form) model with fields that will be filled with the information. The varied information obtained from the stamp is written in these different fields on each page (form). The programme permits one to add new fields to the database or to delete some unwanted fields, if necessary later on. It is also possible to create new models containing less information with fewer fields when someone needs these kinds of models according to the direction and subject of his/her studies. Making a list or lists is available with the necessary information chosen from the entire form. To search for a certain stamp with one or more necessary characteristics, one can enter the information about the stamp required. Importing or exporting forms to/from another database is also possible when needed.

To create a form containing all the information about the stamp, the form model proposed and used by J.-Y. Empereur (2) is applied with the addition of some extra titles and information, such as the images of photos, rubbings and drawings, and some simplification in the search process (3). The following titles for fields containing all the characteristics of the stamp and the information about it exist on the forms of the database of amphora stamps (4)(fig. 6).


Fig. 6

Corpus Number (a running number of the stamps in the database)
Inventory Number (stamps from the Benaki Collection, include initials ABC (Alexandria Benaki Collection), the drawer number and the number given to each stamp in the drawer depending on the placement order of the stamp)
Inventory Number of the Graeco-Roman Museum (5)(a special number given to all the material including stamps in MGR) 
Matrix (the matrix of the stamp to identify the impression which will be presented in detail in the following pages)
Matrix of the Secondary Stamp (the matrix of the secondary stamp if accompanied to the main stamp)
Inscription (transcription of all the inscription written or proposed to be written on the stamp and on the secondary stamps including faint letters, missing letters, errors, monograms, ligatures, space between letters, etc.)
Number and Position of Inscribed Lines (the number of inscribed lines and their position on the stamp, horizontal, vertical, etc.)
Direction of the inscription (whether it is normal (from left to right) or retrograde (from right to left) on the rectangular stamps: whether the bases of letters are to the interior (to the centre) or exterior (to the outer frame of the impression): regarding the form of the letters, e.g. whether lunate sigma or epsilon, or open omega,  plus the direction of individual letters, normal in retrograde writing or retrograde in normal writing) 
Form of the Matrix (the form of the stamp, rectangular, circular, angular, oval, diamond-shaped, leaf-shaped, etc.)
Measurement of the Matrix (the measurement of the frame in cm., giving the largest dimension first in rectangular, oval, diamond and leaf-shaped stamps and diameter of circular stamps 
Eponym (the name of the magistrate inscribed on the stamp)
Fabricant (the name of the producer inscribed on the stamp)
Month-Name (the month-name (6) appearing on the stamp or the suggestion of it when it is not completely preserved, mentioning the Greek word “meis” in Doric dialect means “month”)
Title (the titles followed by the personal name, such as iereos, iereus, ergasteriarchas) (7)
Preposition (the prepositions used on the stamps such as epi, ephi, para)
Device (the identified symbol on the main or the secondary stamp)
Place of the Device (the placement of the device on the stamp – on the left or right or in the centre, below or above the inscription – and the direction of some devicews like caduceus, thyrsus, anchor, dolphin, etc. – to left or right, horizontal or vertical)
Colour of the Clay (the colour as defined by codes from the Munsell Soil Colour Chart. Also mentioned in this field are any extra or abnormal inclusions observed in the clay since these can indicate imitations of certain centres)
Colour of the Slip (the colour of the slip applied on the surface of the amphora or the colour of the surface)
Photo (the photo of the stamp taken with a digital camera)
Photo of the Secondary stamp (a detailed photo of the secondary stamp taken by a digital camera)
Rubbing (the rubbing of the impression on a cigarette paper with some lead dust (8))
Drawing of the Profile (the drawing of the profile of the stamped handle, mostly if it is preserved with a lip but sometimes of the handles bearing a rare name on its stamps) (9)
Photo Number (the number of the photo which is the same as the inventory number of the stamp in the Benaki Collection)
Rubbing Number (the number of the rubbing of the stamp written on each paper – the same number as the inventory number in the Benaki Collection) (10)
Drawing Number (the special number given to the drawing)
Bibliography (if the very stamp or another stamp impressed by the same matrix was published)
Commentary (any other information about the stamp thought to be given is mentioned in this field, such as the secondary stamp, its matrix, reddish paint on the handle, the lip preserved, etc.)
Date/Period (the date or the period in which the stamp was produced)

The above-mentioned items are essential on the form of each stamp to present and to give all the information of the stamp. All the stamps from Alexandria (both held in the collections of the Museum and from the excavations of CEAlex) are documented with this system for the complete database of stamps.

(1) SENOL-SENOL-DOGER 2004, p. 353-360.
(2) EMPEREUR, GUIMIER-SORBETS 1986, p. 134 and 139.
(3) SENOL 2005, p. 151-153, and fig. 11.
(4) This form is used currently for the database of Rhodian amphora stamps but it can be used for the stamps of varied production centers. For instance all the stamps found in the rescue excavations of CEAlex, the stamps from the excavations of Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the stamps in other collections in the Graeco-Roman Museum are documented on this kind of forms. See also the discussion under the title Notes on the Documentation of Amphora Stamps of Other Centers in this paper.
(5) For the database of the stamped handles from the rescue excavations of CEAlex, only one field for the inventory number of each stamp (as the other material from the excavations) exists on the forms, in addition to the corpus number.
(6) The month-names are inscribed on the Rhodian amphora stamps dated to c. 240 BC.
(7) The given titles are for Rhodian stamps. The titles appearing on stamps of other centers, ie. andron, archon, damiorgos, phrourarchos indicating the eponym on Knidian, astynomos on Sinopean stamps, keramarchos (in Thasos), kerameus (in Knidos), ergasteriarchas (in Sinope) pointing out the fabricant can be added to the forms when preparing a complete database.
(8) All the rubbings are scanned and copied on the form of each stamp.
(9) All the profiles of the handles with lips are tried to be drawn and scanned in a file containing all the drawings. A drawing number is given to each drawing and the drawings are later attached to the related forms.
(10) There are files containing all the drawings, photos and the rubbings. The photos and the rubbings of stamps from other sites (excavations of CEAlex or other collections in the museum) have the same numbers with the catalogue numbers and they are documented and stored in order with regard to these numbers.


fig 1