The article below was first given by Dr. H. Tofighian and the late Dr. Farhang Khademi Nadooshan of Tarbiat Modares University in 2011. This was published on-line by Shapour Suren-Pahlav in the CAIS website in April 2008.
Archaeological investigations in the northern coast of the Persian Gulf and in few sites in Khuzistan have yielded evidence for the use of amphorae in Iran, in the Parthian and Sasanian period, in burials as well as trade. No evidence for production centers of amphorae in Iran has yet been found. Nonetheless, given the paucity of excavations and surveys on the coastal regions of Iran and the lack of chemical analysis of the available evidence, the possibility that at least some of the consumed amphorae where made locally must not be ruled out. The amphorae found in these southern regions are mainly of “Torpedo” type. The present paper summarizes the most significant finds of amphorae in the ancient ports of Persian Gulf including discoveries in the course of underwater investigations of Rig Port in 2001.
Summary of finds from ancient ports of Persian Gulf and off coast sites
As early as the 2nd millennium BCE, amphora jars were used in the Eastern Mediterranean; it was produced and used in most commercial centers of Mediterranean world in the two millennia afterwards. The remarkable varied typology of these vessels provides a good basis for the dating of other materials which are found along with amphorae. In general, the so‐called Greek amphorae have relatively wide bases enabling them to stand alone while the Roman type has pointed bottom and need a support. Roman amphora was highly popular in the period from 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE and its geographical distribution in the Near East reached as far as ancient Indus. The amphorae to be discussed below are mainly a category of this type, named Torpedo Jars (after their shape) or Persian Gulf amphorae (after their geographical distribution).
The chronological and spatial distribution of finds around Persian Gulf proves their use in the maritime trade through this critical economic route, at least from the beginning of Parthians dominion (3rd century BCE) up to the first two centuries of Islamic era (9th century CE). The Torpedo jars are similar to the Mediterranean type in their elongated body and pointed bottom, but differentiated in the lack of neck and handle and for their relatively wide openings. Their economic use mainly concerns transportation of valuable liquids such as olive oil and wine, thus a good number of complete vessels or sherds are found to have had bitumen coating inside. However, other goods such as cereal and fish were too transported in this type of container. In Iran, the remains of amphorae are found both on the coast and under sea, the latter case often understood to be associated with shipwrecks.
Finds by the Sea
Several sites in the Bushehr Peninsula, such as “Radar” (one km south of Tel Pey Tel) and Jalali coasts have revealed remains of Torpedo Jars all coated with bitumen.