The use of wooden barrels is widely accepted to have occurred in the Roman world, but often with little further commentary or consideration of their practical implications. Although such material only survives in rare circumstances, there are sufficient indications for their widespread use in addition to ceramic containers including amphorae and dolia.
Nevertheless, given their general absence in the archaeological record, understanding their use and subsequent distribution presents many challenges and in most cases can only remain theoretical: indeed, while recent publications demonstrate the advanced level of ceramic studies (Reynolds 2010), our ability to comment on these perishable containers is usually very limited.
Despite these issues, a preliminary theoretical discussion will be presented on the use of wooden barrels in the province of Lusitania where there are sufficient indications for a successful local wine industry that in some cases occurred on a significant scale. Although it is known that a local amphora industry also endured the period of Roman control, the majority of forms were those used for fish-sauce, and there are many indications for the use of barrels at wine production sites. Furthermore, numerous examples of carved stone barrel-cupa monuments are known in addition to other artistic representations.
This paper will therefore build on discussions presented in previous research (Étienne and Mayet 2000; Tupman 2005) and present a detailed study concerning the use of barrels at production sites and the practicalities of supply and distribution.