About the Project

Stamps imprinted on amphorae and tiles are found everywhere in the Classical settlements of the North Pontic region. Achievements in ceramic epigraphy have made it possible to date such finds with a margin of error of only 10-20 years, which has turned this material into a reliable tool for dating archaeological levels, features, assemblages, burials and whole sites.

A large proportion of the imprints are in a poor state of preservation which makes it difficult to restore legends and to date stamps. Interpreting stamps is possible with reference to catalogue-identifiers from specific centres [Garlan, 1999; Garlan, 2004; Jefremow 1995; Katz, 1994; Finkielsztejn, 2001], to publications of stamps in museum collections [Fedoseev, 2012; Fedoseev, 2016 et al.] or to results obtained in the course of archaeological excavations of individual sites [Balabanov, Garlan, Avram, 2016; Conovici, 1998; Tzochev, 2016 et al.].

If a researcher sets himself the task of searching for precise parallels for a die he has found, then the most complete  collection of stamps found in the North Pontic region is still Corpus IosPE III (Inscriptiones antiquae Orae Septentrionalis Ponti Euxini graecae et latinae), which contains approximately 30,000 stamps. The work on this catalogue was completed by B.N.Grakov in February 1959 and his survey covered most of the stamps which had been recorded by the mid-1950s. Yet, for technical and material considerations, Grakov’s work was not published and is held in manuscript form in the archive of the Institute of Archaeology affiliated to the Russian Academy of Sciences and in the library of the Archaeology Department of Moscow State University. In view of the fact that preparing that survey took around half a century, a whole pleiad of researchers toiled away to create it and some of the stamps found their way into it from other publications, the Corpus contains a large number of duplicates, misinterpretations of legends, inaccuracies in details of codes and find-spots, incorrect groupings of imprints based on dies. Work with the catalogue is complicated by the lack of illustrations: photographs are provided for only 10-40% (this varies from one volume to another) of the stamps. Publishing the Corpus in the format existing today would be a costly undertaking and, basically, there would be no point in embarking upon that task without collating it and adding the stamps which have been found over the last 70 years. This means that the work required for restoring the stamps would require study of a large quantity of archive materials, publications and reviews of the latter, in which attention has been drawn to errors and inaccuracies on the part of the publisher.  

The proposed project aims to create an electronic database covering pottery stamps (on amphorae, tiles, thin-walled vessels) originating from various sites in the North Pontic region. Its creation seeks to simplify the process of restoring damaged imprints, finding parallels and dating pottery stamps. Illustrating the material with photographs makes it possible to establish the identity of certain dies and check that each proposed interpretation is correct.

This extended search will make it possible to carry out statistical analysis of imprints stemming from individual sites within the region.

The database is accessible for editing and supplementing the existing range of stamps and can incorporate new imprints.

During the first stage of work on this project it is planned to introduce the collection of pottery stamps into the academic literature – a collection which was assembled over many years of archaeological research conducted in rural settlements of various types by the Crimean Expedition of the Institute of Archaeology, affiliated to the Russian Academy of Sciences, in the Crimean Sea-of-Azov region, led by Professor and Doctor of Historical Sciences, A.A.Maslennikov. Without his support, advice and involvement, this project would never have seen the light of day.

I thank to Katharine Judelson for site translation from Russian into English and to Maria Nikitina for photos.

The author would like to express her gratitude to the Charitable Foundation “Artemis” supporting the protection and investigation of archaeological sites in the North Pontic and Sea-of-Azov regions for helping us once in 2020 bring this project to fruition.

2023 the research project of the publication of stamps (№ 23-28-01503 “Ceramic stamps of the rural settlement Crimea Sea of Azov IV – III centuries BC as a historical source”) was supported by Russian Science Foundation.

Dr. Anna V. Kovalchuk