I’m a casual fan of underwater archaeology. One thing I always wondered when looking at ancient shipwrecks: why the heck did they use amphora?
What exactly was the purpose of having a long vessel that sat on a pointed tip? It would seem to me that these would tip over or break easily.
… More elongated (perhaps reducing breakage by increasing the surface area in contact between groups of vessels in transit) …
It turns out that amphora is the Greek word for something that existed for hundreds of years before the Greeks came along:
… It is by the earlier second millennium BC that we see a distinctive new shape, referred to by modern commentators as the “Canaanite jar” (Grace 1956). These vessels were now often fashioned on the potter’s wheel, which not only facilitated the production of greater numbers and more regular shapes, but also allowed the sides and base to be made into a single rough cone. Such pointed-base vessels were less vulnerable to breakage and could be stacked in intercalated layers in the holds of ships (with the bases of one layer sitting in the space between the vessels below), placed individually in stands, arrayed in groups on racks, leaned against one another on wharves and in warehouses, or half-buried in the ground. Moreover, this design could be carried in panniers, slung from ropes or hoisted onto the shoulder of a human porter, while the narrow neck could be closed with a stopper and sealed with clay or lime. Finally, the handles and base offered three reliable points by which the vessel might be carried or manipulated when pouring out its contents (fig. 2H; see also fig. 5E below; Grace 1949:175). [emphasis added]