Historical information

This amphora or jug, with a silhouette shaped like a woman with hands on hips wearing a long flared-out skirt. The design was used in ancient Greece for pottery storage jars, the neck being narrower than the body.

The amphora was discovered by Joe O'Keeffe in 1934 in a sand blowout west of Levy's Point west of Warrnambool while he was planting marram grass for Mr Duncan. An article in the Warrnambool Standard newspaper of December 21, 1985, states that the amphora may be linked to the wooden sailing ship called the Mahogany Ship (also called the Ancient Wreck).

Thermoluminescence testing indicates the relic was made in the mid-to-late 1800s and experts suggest it was of North African origin. The presence of the amphora in the sand dunes, and the amphora itself, are still a mystery.

The amphora was donated to Flagstaff Hill on a long-term loan by the Duncan family and displayed to the public for the first time on December 21, 1985, until February 2023 when the display was returned to storage to rest with the redevelopment of the Assistant Lighthouse Keepers Cottage (Shipwreck Museum). An extensive search for members of the Duncan Family has been undertaken by Flagstaff Hill and stakeholders to resolve the loan term loan, but the family is not known. As such to properly care for the amphora, it has been registered until ownership can be determined.


The object is significant for its possible link to one of Victoria’s and Australia’s maritime mysteries, the Mahogany Ship (also known as the Ancient Wreck). It is one of very few known relics that could give evidence of the existence and history of the vessel. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register S438 as it is one of Victoria’s oldest recorded shipwrecks. The identity of the vessel has the potential to change Australia’s history.

Physical description

Amphora or jug; earthenware, orange clay with areas of cream. The vessel has a wide mouth, a deep lip, two opposing handles between the neck and shoulder, and a bulbous body. The curved handles have a design of six bands between them. There are three rings of small dots encircling the body. The underside has concentric circles in the clay, uneven edge and pinhole markings.

Inscriptions & markings

Pinhole patterns: [3 holes above 3 holes] opposite [3 holes above 3 holes], 1 hole] [ 1 hole above 2 holes]