Phoenician "torpedo" amphoras and egypt: Standardization of volume based on linear dimensions

Israel Finkelstein, Elena Zapassky, Yuval Gadot, Daniel M. Master, Lawrence E. Stager, Itzhak Benenson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of global trading networks during the Iron Age demanded the development of sophisticated measuring techniques. Standardization of containers (usually storage jars) was especially important for controlling quantities of commodities and for efficient storage inside ships. The "torpedo" storage jars, manufactured in Phoenicia in the 8th century BCE, are a case in point. This paper deals with a large number of torpedo storage jars found in two shipwrecks off the coast of Ashkelon. The linear dimensions and volume of 20 jars that were retrieved from the two shipwrecks were analyzed in Egyptian units. These vessels were compared to torpedo storage jars found in contemporary land sites excavations. It was determined that a torpedo jar whose cylindrical part is ~1 cubit in height and ~1 cubit and 2 palms in circumference "guarantees" a volume of 4 hekats, meaning that their volume could have easily been estimated and that the level of standardization was high. The choice by Phoenician manufactures to use Egyptian units was probably shaped by the Egyptian consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-259
Number of pages11
JournalAgypten und Levante
StatePublished - 2011


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