Oct 27, 2016

Tell me what I hold and I'll tell you what I am

Museo Arqueológico de Granada

Historical development of archaeological containers

With the first agricultural and livestock societies came the need to store and preserve the surplus of solid and liquid products. The appearance of pottery was a dramatic breakthrough for the improvement of the living and working conditions of these societies. It not only allowed for the storage and preservation of a most varied range of products but also for these to be better processed for consumption, moving towards a richer and more varied food diet. From the first most simple and functional forms, ceramic vessels have evolved throughout history towards more complex forms where their decoration takes on an intrinsic value causing them to move from being solely and exclusively storage, cooking, or consumption utensils to being luxury and ritual products.
Technological innovation: ceramics
No product which has come from the hand of man reflects the spirit and essence of human culture like ceramics. The applications of this new material were incredible, creating the possibility of heating, storing, or even transporting food. Made with raw materials from the environment, their shape and size varied according to their use, and they even came to be decorated. Through various scientific analyses of seeds and bones on archaeological sites, archaeologists have been able to study what kind of food or ingredients were abundant in the neolithic diet. Hunting continued to revolve mainly around rabbits, deer, and wild boar. Livestock was based mainly on sheep and goats, and the use of their milk. Cereals and legumes were the most commonly grown food.

This bowl is an example of the so-called Bell-Beaker ceramics, and it displays a printed decoration in the form of superposed horizontal stripes making a zig-zag pattern.

Here is a neolithic vase decorated using incisions and deep impressions with alternating horizontal and wavy lines. It comes from the Cueva de las Ventanas [Cave of Windows], Piñar (Granada).

Copper Age
Pottery was still made by hand. The forms used would continue to be repeated: pots, glasses, dishes. They were very high-quality ceramics.

Here we have what is known as Argaric pottery. It stands out for its very careful finish and the absence of decorative elements.


Apparently this type of container had various functions. Its primary use would be the container of some highly valued product, given the quality of the container, such as wine, perfume, ointments, etc. Its secondary use would be as a container for a person's cremated remains.


The Iberians performed the rite of cremation, putting the remains of ashes and washed bones inside ceramic or stone urns. Together with these they left grave goods for the afterlife of the deceased.

Among the grave goods we find decorated Iberian ceramic plates and cups, as well as Greek pottery and bronze objects in the richest tombs. Moreover, in the tombs of men it was common to bury the unused weapons of the deceased, such as a soliferrum or falcata, and in the tombs of women, loom weights and jewelry.

Oval-shaped cinerary urn featuring a narrow base with an everted rim.

These small glass containers were used to contain perfumes or essences; they were therefore a luxury item in these societies.

In Roman times, these containers were associated with the trade and transport of items such as wine, oil, and salted fish. This particular item is an oil amphora.

The quality and variety of the pottery of the Nazari Kingdom made it one of their most important crafts. The commitment of the sultans to asserting their power would lead to the production of "golden pottery" in the workshops of Malaga and Granada, where true masterpieces were produced. These decorations, gold on white glaze, were used especially in the production of large vases and tiles.

The vase known as Redoma de las Liebres [Hare Flask], is part of the Caliphate pottery from Medina Elvira (Atarfe).

It is decorated with four hares carrying sprigs in their mouths and some friezes painted black and green on a white background.

Finally, we have a spherical bowl-shaped cup with curved walls and a protruding edge. It is decorated with geometric and floral motifs drawn in blue. The background is tin-white and retains traces of gold.

Museo Arqueológico de Granada
Credits: Story

Tell me what I hold and I'll tell you what I am

Organised by:
Museo Arqueológico de Granada
Consejería de Cultura de la Junta de Andalucía

Curated by: Museo Arqueológico de Granada y Servicio de Innovación Cultural.
Textoss: Museo Arqueológico de Granada, Recopilación. Exposición "Tesoros de Granada". 2012, Servicio de Innovación Cultural y MUSARAÑA. Gestión Integral de Museos. s.l.
Photography: Javier Algarra, Vicente del Amo Hernández, Rafael Gómez Benito y Archivo Dirección General de Bienes Culturales y Museos.
Digital Edition: Servicio de Innovación Cultural.

Museo Arqueológico de Granada.

Credits: All media
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