Beer Archaeology: The Hubbard Amphora

After Dikaios 1937, Pl. 7

The Hubbard Amphora is a Cypriot vessel decorated with a drinking scene in which an enthroned individual drinks from a vessel using a bent straw. The Early Iron Age amphora (ca. 800 BCE) is currently housed in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia (1938-XI/2/3).

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Hubbard Amphora was made during a period of significant contact and influence between Cyprus and the Near East. Several Syro-Hittite scenes have been found that similarly show individuals using a straw (or “siphon”) to drink liquid from a vessel. Unlike the Near East, however, this drinking practice does not appear to be attested elsewhere in Cyprus. As a result, the depiction likely represents artistic influence from an Eastern source.

Dikaios uses several examples from Syria as comparanda to suggest the “communion” scene of a local deity – an individual who holds an elevated position who is waited upon and feasting alone. Because of the elevated status of the seated figure, Dikaios argues that the liquid being drunk is probably sacrificial blood or wine. It is known from many sources (literary and archaeological), however, that beer was often drunk with a straw or siphon by several different groups in this part of the world – Thrace (between Greece and Turkey), Armenia, Phrygia (Turkey), and the Near East, including Syria and the kingdom of Mari (Nelson 2001, 154-155; Hornsey 2003, 133-134). With all of this considered, it is not unlikely that this scene depicts the consumption of beer by means of a straw.

Caubet, A. 2014. “Feasting in Cyprus during the Heroic Age.” The Met Museum,
Dikaios, P. 1936/1937. “An Iron Age Painted Amphora in the Cyprus Museum.” BSA 37: 56-72.
Hornsey, I.S. 2003. A History of Beer and Brewing. The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Nelson, M. 2001. “Beer in Greco-Roman Antiquity.” Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of British Columbia.




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