The Roman Amphora
Learning from storage jars
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I have spent the better part of my professional life studying the lowly Roman amphora—a two-handled clay jar used by the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans to ship goods. What would Harvard professor Charles Eliot Norton, who founded the Archaeological Institute of America in 1879, have thought about my archaeological tastes? Norton wanted archaeology, especially Greek archaeology, to uplift Americans morally and aesthetically through the study of elegant ancient artifacts. Yet, paradoxically, near the top of his headstone in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge,Massachusetts, is a small amphora carved in relief.

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