Height: 33.000 cm
Gift of A.E. Brandon
Room 72: Ancient Cyprus
Red Polished Ware vessel
About 2000 BC
A playful experiment with a practical use?
This vessel has four small bowls with a central tall handle. It was made by hand and covered by a slip (specially prepared clay solution used for coating vessels). The vessel was decorated with oblique incised lines around the upper parts of the bowls and all over the handle, before the slip was polished and the vessel fired to become red.
Athenaeus, who lived in the years around AD 200, describes a kernos as a vessel of earthenware 'having in it many little cups fastened to it'. Such vessels were used to carry a wide variety of samples of different crops and products to offer to the gods at a religious festival. This vessel perhaps fits that much later description and could have been used for ritual proposes. It is equally possible that such complex shapes as this (with up to nine bowls) were simply playful inventions of Cypriot potters of the time, with no hidden meaning or purpose, but rather with a practical use.
D. Morris, The art of ancient Cyprus (Oxford, Phaidon Press, 1985)