In Ancient Egypt, alabaster jars were used as containers for ointment, perfume, and other cosmetic products, such as kohl. The alabaster used by ancient civilisations in the wider Middle East (including Egypt and Mesopotamia) is also called “oriental alabaster”, which is a type of calcite. Many ancient peoples used alabaster for decoration, as it was easy to carve and could be treated in such a way as to resemble marble. Although being a soft and slightly porous stone made alabaster easy to carve, the upshot was that it would not survive for significant periods of time when exposed to the elements. The name “alabaster” is thought to have derived from the Ancient Egyptian, ‘a-labaste‘, which refers to the vessels of the goddess, Bast. Usually depicted as a lioness, her figure would often sit on top of alabaster vessels.
Egyptian Conical Alabaster Jar
A fine example of Egyptian alabaster in the form of a small conical jar. The vessel features a wide, flat base that slowly curves upwards to a narrow neck and wide rim. The colouring is enhanced by the thin veins of white that encircle the piece, giving it a pleasing geometric style.
Period: Late Dynastic Period
Provenance: Gottfried and Helga Hertel collection, Cologne, acquired in the 1970s.
Condition: Extremely good condition. Wear visible on the shape of the rim.