Ancient Greek Terracotta Libation Bowl with Omphalos


A beautiful Ancient Greek terracotta libation bowl with a distinctive omphalos. The bowl features a wide shallow body with a curving base and an inward folded rim. A central medallion is adorned with a low relief floral decoration encapsulated within concentric circles. The raise boss in the middle, the Greek term ‘omphalos’, is hollow and the protrusion can be seen from the reverse. There are two small perforations towards the rim, and a third in the centre of the omphalos. The surface of the rim is covered with white earthly encrustations.

Date: Circa 4th Century BC
Provenance: Ex property of a North London gentleman; from a European collection, France, bought in Paris in the 1990's
Condition: Very fine condition. Some white encrustation to the surface with the majority visible around the rim. There are some fine hairline cracks around the central medallion and the base of the omphalos.

In stock

SKU: MJ-80 Category: Tags: , ,

Libation bowls appear in both hellenistic and Roman contexts, termed ‘Phiale’ or ‘Patera’ respectively. They were used to give ritual offering to the gods. The most common offering was wine mixed with water, but honey and milk could also be used. The wine would be decanted from a jug into the libation bowl; some would be poured on the ground for the offering and the rest may have been drunk by the worshipper.

The form of the bowl was specifically designed so that the underside of the omphalos would provide a convenient grip point for the user. Aside from its functional aspect, the bowl’s omphalos is also thought to have held spiritual significance. The word itself means ‘navel’ and is the etymological origin for modern terms such as umbilical. A sacred stone of Apollo, situated at the sanctuary at Delphi, was referred to as the Omphalos. It was thought at the time to be the centre-point of the world. The miniature form seen is this example could act as an evocation of this belief.

Weight 443.8 g
Dimensions W 23.3 x H 3.0 cm


Pottery and Porcelain

Reference: For a similar style bowl,The British Museum, item 108767

You may also like…