During the Iron Age, ancient Near Eastern and Cypriot stone vessels featuring a shallow container, supported by either a ring base or a tripod stand, served a narrow range of functions. Ritual practices and religious purposes are closely associated with this type. These stone vessels, mainly made of basalt and alabaster, were hardly ever employed beyond the scopes of elite banquets and religious dedications in ancient Mesopotamian, Syria, Palestine and Cyprus. It is believed that a stone mortar, supported by a wide variety of different bases, originated in the Assyrian royal banqueting contexts. These stone vessels were used on tables to crush and grind aromatic herbs. This fine example reflects the widespread Assyrian aesthetic diffusion that took place in the Iron Age pan-Mediterranean area, containing profound archaeological significance in visualising how traditional Mesopotamian practises were adopted and assimilated by ancient Palestinians.
Palestine Alabaster Ritual Tripod Mortar
An extremely fine Palestinian veined alabaster mortar, featuring an iconic Assyrian form, dating to the Iron Age. As per its Assyrian and Cypriot counterparts, the vessel is conventionally engraved with characteristic elements of stone mortars, including a large, shallow container that is elegantly supported by three well-spaced, wedge-shaped tripod stands. A widened lip in addition to plain and curving walls accentuates the attractive texture of the original stone. A short spout, with a deeply-grooved incision, runs smoothly across the centre, protruding slightly from one side of the lip and connecting with the interior space of the shallow container to allow ground herbs or aromatic ingredients to flow. The bottoms of the tripod stands are decorated with short, vertical incisions, echoing the lip’s grooved rim, which creates a unique, zig-zag silhouette.
Provenance: From a Surrey gentleman's collection (D.G.), purchased on the London Art market from ADA member, 1990s - onwards.
Condition: Very fine collection, with minor chips to the rim of the lip and to the peripheral areas of the bottom