Basalt bowl - ROM2018_16145_9


Basalt bowl

Geography: Undetermined site, Upper Egypt
Date: c. 3100-2613 BC
Period: 1st-3rd Dynasty, Early Dynastic Period to early Old Kingdom
4.8 x 9.9 cm
Object number: 900.2.27
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

Ancient Egyptian craftsmen’s skill in carving stone vessels reached its peak during the Early Dynastic Period. Carved stone vessels, a luxury good, have been found in abundance in royal tombs, and those of the elite, of the first three dynasties. The presumption is that they were used for display on special occasions, such as funerary banquets, and otherwise to hold costly unguents and cosmetics.

This elegant, thin-walled black basalt bowl is of a type found in Southern Egypt. Unfortunately, both its exact provenance and its original use are unknown.

The hard stone basalt was worked continuously from Neolithic times to the end of the Sixth Dynasty. During the Old Kingdom, the stone vessel industry, often portrayed on the walls of tombs, was in slow decline, and after the New Kingdom, softer stones such as limestone, travertine and serpentine were preferred for vessels. Basalt had a resurgence of popularity in the Late Period and into Greco-Roman times for statuary and sarcophagi.

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