Pottery stirrup jar

Minoan, about 1300-1200 BC
From Kourion (modern Episkopí), Cyprus

An oil jar with an octopus trade mark

Stirrup jars are named after the stirrup shape that the handles form around the false neck. This very large type of stirrup jar was probably used for storing and transporting olive oil. Analysis has shown that stirrup jars made from Cretan clay were widely distributed in the Aegean area. This particular jar comes from Kourion in Cyprus, and in fact such jars are the commonest type of Minoan pottery found on the island. Taking oil to Cyprus - an oil-producing island - may seem odd, but perfumed and flavoured oils were a feature of Mycenaean trade, and Cretan olive oil may have been particularly desirable.

These large stirrup jars are particularly associated with the west of Crete, evidence of the shift of economic power away from the centre of the island during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC, when Crete was part of the Mycenaean world. They are often decorated with an octopus, and it has been suggested that this may have been a sort of 'trade-mark' identifying the contents as Cretan produce.

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More information


O.T.P.K. Dickinson, The Aegean Bronze Age (Cambridge, 1994)

D. Williams, Greek vases (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 18.000 inches

Museum number

GR 1896.2-1.265 (Vases C 501)


Miss E.T. Turner Bequest excavations
University of Philadelphia Museum Expedition


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