Height: 12.500 cm
Gift of R B Seager
GR 1921.5-15.32 (Vases A 425)
Room 12: Minoan and Mycenaean
Pottery jar with exaggerated spout
Minoan, about 2500-2300 BC
From the Isthmus of Ierápetra, east Crete
A Minoan 'tea-pot' of remarkable proportions
This type of mottled pottery is known as 'Vassiliki Ware', after the site of Vassiliki where it was first recognized. The site lies on the Isthmus of Ierapetra, a point towards the eastern end of Crete where the island becomes very narrow from north to south. Important Minoan settlements were situated in this region, presumably because it is one of the very few places where the island can quite easily be crossed from coast to coast, without high mountains intervening.
Vassiliki Ware may have been made in more than one centre. It is characterized by a mottled surface that perhaps copies vases in variegated stone. However, the angular shapes of the vessels and the occasional decorative use of false rivets also suggests prototypes made of metal; it may be that a burnished metallic-looking surface was intended. Whatever the inspiration, the mottling was achieved by various means, including the use of material in the kiln that prevented air from circulating evenly around the surface of the pot as it was fired.
Such vases as this, with exaggerated spouts, are often described as 'tea-pots', and it is possible that they were used for infusions of the herbs in which the Cretan landscape abounds.
P. Betancourt, The history of Minoan pottery (Princeton University Press, 1985)
R. Higgins, The Greek Bronze Age (London, The British Museum Press, 1977)
R.A. Higgins, Minoan and Mycenean art, new revised edition (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)