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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Stamped Amphora Handle
Work Type
100-150 CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Hispania
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
6.1 x 9 x 4.5 cm (2 3/8 x 3 9/16 x 1 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • stamp and inscription: II IVNI MELISSI / ET MELLISSE
Probably acquired by Henry W. Haynes in or near Rome, c. 1877.
Bequest of Prof. Henry W. Haynes to Department of the Classics, 1912.
Transfer from the Department of the Classics, 1977.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Transfer from the Department of the Classics, Harvard University, Bequest of Henry W. Haynes, 1912
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Thick fragment of an amphora handle featuring a stamp. The exterior of the handle is whitish-gray. Looking at the cross-section of the handle, it is possible to see the inner rim is red, while the majority of the inside fabric is dark gray. The diameter of the handle is about 4.5 centimeters. [J.Pesce 8/4/10]

The amphora stamps of the Melissi family are found all over the western Mediterranean, in such frequency and extent as to suggest that they must have been one of the wealthiest and most productive families in Spain. The stamps of the "Two Iunii Melissi", giving forms of the names Melissus and Melissa, belonged to a firm owned by a husband and wife, or a brother and sister. They appear to have operated the firm in the first half of the second century CE. Around the end of the reign of Antoninus Pius, the business appears to have passed to L. Iunius Melissus, who was probably the son of both or one of them. The museum has an example of his stamps (1977.216.154).

Amphorae handles were often stamped with the name of the family or company that shipped the goods inside. The stamp on this handle is of the Melissi family. Handles with their stamp have been found in numerous places in the western part of the Roman Empire, particularly Spain, suggesting that they were one of the wealthiest families in that area. It is believed that the company was owned by either a husband and wife or a brother and sister, since there is both a masculine and feminine form of the name on some of these stamps. The height of production for this firm was the first half of the second century CE, and it was ultimately passed to L. Iunius Melissus, their descendant.

Most brick stamps were rectangular and made of bronze. The letters were often in all capitals, cast in raised relief. Stamps were used for marking a wide variety of materials, such as bricks, amphorae, tiles, lamps, and other ceramic vessels. Sometimes even bread was stamped. Though the Greeks were known to stamp tiles, most of the evidence for the rise of Roman stamps comes from the third century BCE.

The stamp would usually name the maker or exporter of the product, as seen with the COSSINI EVTVCHIANI stamp in this collection. The name of the person is in the genitive case to show possession. This stamped amphora handle would have been made in the same way. The Arretine bowl in this collection has a different kind of stamp: a small foot in the center. This could be a trademark of a certain factory, and it would be of particular help to people who could not read.

[Jessica Pesce 8/19/2010]
Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at