Pottery stirrup jar


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Stirrup jars are named after the stirrup shape that the handles form around the false neck. This very large type of stirrup jar was probably used for storing and transporting olive oil. Analysis has shown that stirrup jars made from Cretan clay were widely distributed in the Aegean area. This particular jar comes from Kourion in Cyprus, and in fact such jars are the commonest type of Minoan pottery found on the island. Taking oil to Cyprus - an oil-producing island - may seem odd, but perfumed and flavoured oils were a feature of Mycenaean trade, and Cretan olive oil may have been particularly desirable.These large stirrup jars are particularly associated with the west of Crete, evidence of the shift of economic power away from the centre of the island during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BC, when Crete was part of the Mycenaean world. They are often decorated with an octopus, and it has been suggested that this may have been a sort of 'trade-mark' identifying the contents as Cretan produce.

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  • Title: Pottery stirrup jar
  • Date Created: -1375/-1200
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 45.00cm; Width: 30.00cm; Weight: 4.00kg
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; slipped; wheel-made
  • Subject: marine life; mollusc
  • Registration number: 1896,0201.27
  • Production place: Made in Crete
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Episkopi-Bamboula
  • Period/culture: Late Minoan IIIA2; Late Minoan IIIB
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Turner Bequest Excavations, Curium. Funded by Turner, Emma Tourner