A Taste of the Ancient World:
Storage and Cooking at Karanis
Although this household container would normally have been used to store
liquids, oddly enough it was found filled with cardamom - still retaining
a sweet odor. Cardamom, currently the third most expensive spice in the
United States, was much more common in the ancient world. It was often locally
raised and considered a staple in most Roman kitchens.
Household Vessel with Cardamom Seeds
KM 20335 a/b
These dishes were found together in a storage bin, suggesting that they
constituted part of an ancient 'kitchen and dining set'. Kilns for firing
ceramics were found at Karanis, suggesting that these pots were made locally
and produced in great numbers. This red-earthen pottery was used by the
ordinary inhabitants of Karanis, where the women of each household would
prepare meals throughout the day - in between other daily jobs and chores.
Found in the same bin as these vessels were other cooking pots, serving
vessels, rope, a knife, grain, garlic, parched peas, and barley. This collection
gives some sense of the range of items needed around the home. Two photographs
show this assemblage at different stages of its exavation.
Group of Cooking Pots and Serving Vessels
KM 8157; 8163; 8164; 8220; 20405; 20414; 20426; 20427; 20428
Compare this domestic assemblage with a group of household objects found
on the windowsill
of another house in Karanis, and with some cooking pots
from Sepphoris, a Roman town in Israel.
Archive Photo 5-3475
Archive Photo 5-3476
1st c BC
Detail of Stamps on Handles
Amphorae, large storage vessels, were used throughout the ancient world
to transport wine, olive oil, and other more luxurious goods by ship. Each
amphora held several gallons of liquid, and could weigh over a hundred pounds
when filled. On the handle of this amphora excavated at Karanis are stamped
two names - Baton and Eraios - who were probably slaves involved
in amphora production. Compare this amphora with an amphora that was found
in a shipwreck.
These knives likely served in the kitchen for food preparation. The bright
green spot on the blade indicates the corrosive presence of 'bronze disease',
which eats the metal away. Compare these knives with the iron
Wooden Handle for a Knife
1st c. BC - 4th c AD
Bronze Knife Blade
Go on to Serving and Eating.