Object: Kantharos

Black Bucchero-Ware Strap Kantharos
Italy, Tuscany
Ca. 600 BCE
Materials:  clay

Bucchero is a very common type of fine pottery that was made by the Etruscans when their civilization was at its height, from the seventh to the fourth century BCE. Characteristically, Bucchero-ware is black, sometimes gray, and often shiny from polishing. The color was achieved by firing in an atmosphere charged with carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. This is known as a reducing firing, and it converts the red of the clay, due to the presence of iron oxide, to the typical bucchero colors. Bucchero sottile is a very fine and thin pottery often decorated with incisions or various dot and line patterns.  The museum kantharos is an example of the sottile style.  The Bucchero pesante style appeared around the 6th century BCE and is characterized by its thicker walls and relief decorations in the shape of animal and human heads.

A kantharos is a deep cup with two vertical handles, which often extend high above the lip of the cup, resembling ears.  Ancient authors regularly associated the kantharos with Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine.
The origins of the Etruscan culture are lost to pre-history, however, the civilization that would become known as the Etruscan culture began to develop in northern Italy  around 800 BCE.  Although it is uncertain where the Etruscans came from, nevertheless it is clear that when they settled on the Italian Peninsula they brought with them civilization and urbanization.  They founded their civilizations in north-eastern Italy between the Appenine mountain range and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Their civilization stretched from the Arno river in the north to the Tiber river towards the center of the Italian peninsula; it was on the Tiber river that sat a small village of Latins — the village that would become Rome.  So the Romans, who were only villagers during the rise of the Etruscan civilization, were in close contact with the Etruscans, their language, their ideas, their religion, and their civilization; the Etruscans were one of the single most important influences on Roman culture in its transition to civilization. They were a sophisticated people, with an alphabet, a tradition of original sculpture and painting, and a religion based on human-type gods.  All of these they passed down to the Romans.    [Debra Taylor]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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