This delicately rendered stone Alabastron bears strong resemblance to counterparts made both in stone and precious materials during 6th century Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). A hoard recovered from the Ikiztepe Tomb contained ten stone Alabastra made from beige-brown banded alabaster. Incidentally, each vessel bore two small side lugs in the shape of duck heads with no piercing. This type of lug is also found in a variety of silver Alabastra. There are no holes found in these lugs since silver plate was usually hammered from the inside of the vessel; a clever way for the silversmith to maintain the full value of the metal.
The Alabastron is antiquity's version of the modern perfume bottle. It is a thin flask with a long narrow neck and rounded bottom. Its luxurious content of perfumed oil was mainly used by women for decorative or funerary activities. Alabastra had a unique shape with a small opening ideal for pouring oil. Originating in Egypt and Syria, this vessel found popularity in Archaic and Classical Greece in a variety of material, especially clay, stone, glass, and precious metals. Little lugs found on the shoulders of the Alabastron were pierced in order to pass a string for suspension.
The production of glass, stone and clay vessels first began in Egypt ca. the second millennium BCE and slowly made its way to the Hellenic world. Egyptian influence is easily recognizable in alabaster vessels where the stone was originally quarried in the town of Alabastron. The stone was held in high esteem and used to manufacture luxury items, especially perfume bottles and ointment vases.
Author: Sarah Thomas