Terracotta coffin (larnax)

Minoan, about 1400-1200 BC
From the Zafer Papoura cemetery, Knossos, Crete

This terracotta coffin comes from a Late Minoan cemetery. The cemetery lay to the north of the town that surrounded the palace at Knossos. Minoan burials were placed in tombs and were frequently made in coffins that were either shaped like bathtubs or chests. Extensive cemeteries of tombs have been found for the period 1400-1200 BC. The coffins were often elaborately painted, with scenes that seem specifically chosen for their funerary significance. The burial was sometimes accompanied by rich grave offerings. It is clear from such cemeteries that Crete remained a prosperous place in the later part of the Minoan period, when the island seems to have been under the control of Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland.

Terracotta bathtubs certainly had a domestic use as well, and the chest-shaped coffins also seem to derive their form from domestic furniture. They may copy the shape of wooden chests that were used to store textiles or household goods, though no wooden examples have survived. The base of this coffin is pierced with eleven holes, for reasons that are not certain but which may be connected with funerary use.

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B. Rutkowski, Larnaksy egejskie (Wroclaw, Zaklad Narodowy im. Osloinskich, Wydawn. Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 1966)


Height: 70.000 cm
Length: 100.000 cm
Width: 45.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1906.11-12.96 (Vases A 746)


Gift of Sir Arthur Evans


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