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lekanis

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1879,1004.1

  • Description

    Pottery: black-figure lekanis (bowl); wheel-made; low conical body on a ring base; short rim, slightly concave; pair of opposing strap handles; made of buff clay and slip, decorated with figures in reddish-black paint inside and out, some details incised; vessel mostly intact but repaired from fragments, with slight restoration on the rim.

    In the interior, three male figures are represented in a tondo with border of tongue-pattern. At the left a nude, bearded man facing right grips the arms of a bearded opponent in the centre and forces him down. This central figure, dressed in a short chiton with a sheath at his side, attempts to flee to the right and brandishes a sword in his right hand. In his left hand he holds a cord to which an object may be attached. At the right a third man, nude and bearded, retreats, looking back. In the field are a branch, a flower, and a tendril.

    On the outside of the lekane, under a frieze of ivy leaves below the rim, we see on side A a sacrificial procession moving toward the altar of the goddess Athena and on side B, seven men, a he-goat, and a bird. The two scenes are probably connected and linked to a rural festival.

    On side A, at the far right underneath one of the handles, Athena is represented facing to the left. She wears a peplos and a helmet. In her right hand she brandishes a spear, and she holds a shield on her left arm. Behind her is a snake coiled on a pedestal and a Doric column, which may suggest a temple or a sanctuary. In front of Athena is a two-stepped flaming altar with a flame-guard; at the left, a bird is on top of the altar, which is approached by a priestess in a peplos carrying a sacrificial tray on her head. Behind her, a man in a short tunic who is holding a wreath leads a bull to sacrifice. He is followed by an aulas (double-pipe) player and five men. They all seem to be nude, except for the aulos player, who wears a short garment, and the last figure, who has some drapery over his arm. The first in line holds two cords attached to the bull's hind legs; the second carries a wreath and the third a jug; the fourth has a short staff or perhaps a knife; and the fifth carries a staff (or a knife) and a wreath. Behind them, underneath the other handle, the procession is concluded by a cart, which is pulled by two mules and carries four draped figures. One is the driver, who holds a two-thonged whip; two others stand and one is seated at the back, holding a wreath.

    On side B seven bearded, nude male figures, a he-goat, and a bird are represented. The bird, at the far left, faces right. Next are two men, holding wreaths, who move to the right; the one in front looks back at his companion. Further to the right, two men are busy with a he-goat, who stands between them facing right with his head turned back. The man at the right holds the goat by a horn. Behind him are two men facing left and gesticulating. A third man, at the far right, faces right; he holds a stick in his hand, and a small piece of drapery hangs from his left arm.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 550BC (circa)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Ware

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 7.62 centimetres
    • Diameter: 30.48 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    BM Cat. Vases:
    J. H. S. i. pl. 7, p. 202 (C. Smith); Class. Rev. i. (1887), p. 315 (Murray); Harrison and Verrall, pp. 289, 458; Roscher, p. 691; Studniczka, Kyrene, p. 14.
    For Theseus and Skiron, cf. BM Vases E49, E53. For sacrifices to Athena, cf. Berlin Cat. 1686. For the Doric column, cf. Jahrbuch, 1887, p. 151, n. 64, and p. 280. For the altar, which is of open woodwork, see Studniczka, l.c.
    The figures in the comic choris probably allude to the practice of making jokes έξ άμαξής, which was connected with comic contests.
    The vase is probably later than 566 B.C., when the Panathenaic games were instituted.

    Worshiping Women catalogue:
    This scene is a unique representation of what seems to be a rural Boeotian cult procession. The column seems to indicate a temple setting, and a mule cart and men dancing around a goat add a rural feel. The snake is often taken as a reference to Athena's (theriomorphic?) chthonic cult companion (Hades or Ares?), although it could also be just a sacred animal of the goddess; the bird may be a goose or a crow, which appears to have had a particular significance for Athena at Boeotian Koroneia. The representation of Athena herself may reflect a specific Archaic Boeotian cult statue, or it may simply indicate the presence of the goddess, using the attacking Promachos pose that was popular for Athena from the mid-sixth century B.C. in Athens and elsewhere (cf. cat. no. 117). Beyond the unusual and local features, however, the representation offers a glimpse of a "typical" Greek sacrificial procession, or pompe, in which both women and men play their separate roles. It features the altar in front of the temple, the sacrificial animal(s), music (the aulos being the favourite instrument for such occasions), and men carrying implements needed for the sacrifice. At the head of the pompe we see the kanephoros (basket-bearer) face to face with the goddess. She was usually chosen from among the aristocratic young unmarried girls or women for this prestigious role, which was a great honour for her family (cf. Palagia). The girl's purity, her status as virgin or parthenos, was of the essence for the success of the sacrifice, as her task was to carry the sacrificial basket containing the grain and the sacrificial knife that were needed for the sacrifice. The importance of her role is reflected in the fact that the kanephoros usually seems to have been the only woman to receive a dedicated portion of the sacrificial meat for herself, whereas otherwise the meat was distributed among the men, who would then pass on parts to the women in their household. Yet her role was also limited, as the actual slaughtering of the sacrificial animal, the carving up of the carcass, and the roasting and burning of the meat was all restricted to men.

    Selected Bibliography
    Smith 1880; Ure 1929, 168-71; Ringwood Arnold 1934; Schachter 1981, 117-27; LIMC II (1984) s.v. Athena 586 (Demargne); van Straten 1995, 212-13, no- V 107, fig. 14; Gebauer 2002, 162-63, no. PV140; Schmidt 2002, 51-56; Connelly 2007, 168-69, fig. 6.1.

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  • Bibliography

    • Vase B80 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G69/dc33

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    1980 5 Jun- 26 Oct, London, BM, The Ancient Olympic Games
    2008-2009 Dec-May, New York, Onassis Cultural Center, Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens (Cat. no. 106)
    2009 20 Jul-30 Nov, Athens, National Archaeological Museum, Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens

  • Condition

    Mended and restored in various parts.

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1879

  • Department

    Greek & Roman Antiquities

  • Registration number

    1879,1004.1

Pottery: black-figured lekane (bowl), with a sacrificial procession in honour of the goddess Athena.

Pottery: black-figured lekane (bowl), with a sacrificial procession in honour of the goddess Athena.

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