Available Online | To the Dregs: Drawing Meaning from the Rhodian Handles of Hellenistic Ashkelon by Kate Birney

The Center For Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce the online publication of spring fellow Kate Birney’s paper, “To the Dregs:  Drawing Meaning from the Rhodian Handles of Hellenistic Ashkelon,” which was presented at the 2015 Fellows Research Symposium. See the abstract below. To read the full article, visit the Center for Hellenic Studies Research Bulletin.


Rhodian amphorae, distinctive for their shape and their rose-stamped handles, are emblematic of specialized wine trade during the Hellenistic period. Their presence in quantity at sites throughout the Mediterranean has been used as a barometer for a city’s financial success and the wealth of its inhabitants, while sudden fluctuations have been correlated with commercial, political or even cultural change. This paper presents a preliminary study of the Rhodian stamped handles from the port city of Ashkelon, in an effort to add nuance to our understanding of the city’s economic development and commercial connections throughout the Hellenistic period. Due to its scale, Ashkelon offers a unique opportunity for spatial study, by comparing distribution patterns between neighborhoods and public or private spaces. The resulting blend of chronological and spatial analysis not only sheds light on use patterns of Rhodian amphorae themselves, but also illuminates a significant commercial and urban shift that occurs in the city at the end of the 2nd century B.C. It likewise demonstrates the value of non-primary contexts a as well as the importance of considering urban syntax in understanding patterns in Rhodian data.
Kate Birney (PhD Harvard) is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Wesleyan University. A Mediterranean archaeologist, she specializes in interaction and cultural exchange between the Aegean and the Near East, both mythological and material. In particular, she is examining interactions between Greece and the Near East in the Persian and Hellenistic periods (6th-2nd c. BC), as part of ongoing archaeological work at the site of Ashkelon, on the south coast of Israel. Her research is focused upon the development of the Hellenistic city and its connections across the Aegean.

Image credit: Possible Lineage of the “Gaza Jar” 1a: Briend and Humbert 1980 Plate 7.8; 1b: Barako 2008 Figure 23.28; 2: Figure 23.28; 3a: Figure 23.30; 3b Figure 23.29.