Red Polished Ware bowl

From tomb 105 in the cemetery (site A) on the eastern slope of Vounous, Cyprus
About 2300-2100 BC

This bowl shows the prowess of Cypriot potters of the Early Bronze Age

Red Polished Ware was the dominant pottery of the Early and Middle Bronze Age (2300-1650 BC) in Cyprus. The first examples were, however, produced some two centuries earlier, when the culture of the northern part of Cyprus showed strong affinities with that of southern Anatolia (modern Turkey). In this part of the island momentous changes took place around 2500 BC, perhaps precipitated by the arrival of refugees from southern Anatolia who were escaping from earlier catastrophes. Nevertheless, Early Bronze Age culture soon spread throughout the island, and is typified by finds from cemeteries at Vounous on the north coast.

Red Polished pots were always handmade. They were covered by a slip (a specially prepared clay solution) which was burnished (polished) and then often decorated with patterns incised with a sharp cutting tool before being fired. The final colour of the slip, and so the appearance of the vessel, depended on the amount of iron oxide in the solution (more was needed for the pot to become red, less for black) and the condition and temperature of firing. By controlling the cooling as well as the firing conditions, potters were able to produce vessels that were either mottled or, as this example, two-coloured. Two-coloured pots were often red on the outside with a black rim and interior.

Although found in a tomb, this vessel probably originally had a practical purpose and could have stored dried items such as seeds or grains.

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More information


E. and J. Stewart, Vounous 1937-38: field-report, Skrifter utgivna av Svenska institutet i Rom. 4o ; 14 (Lund, C.W.K. Gleerup, 1950)

V. Tatton-Brown, Ancient Cyprus, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)


Height: 12.600 cm (to rim)
Diameter: 11.350 cm

Museum number

GR 1939.2-17.11


Excavated by J.R. Stewart


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