Object: Stirrup jar

C/1953/7/1
Stirrup jar
Mycenaean
Cyprus
ca. 1300-1230 BCE
Materials: Ceramic, slip

Stirrup jars are specialized containers, named after the stirrup shape that the handles form, for oil or wine that are closely associated with the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures of the Aegean Bronze Age. It is thought that this type of container was originally intended to be used in the same way an amphora was used, to store and serve liquids. However, their relatively small size and arrangements for stoppering and attaching labels seems to indicate that stirrup jars were most commonly used to store and serve only particularly valuable liquids. While there are many variations of this basic shape, this example in the Sam Noble Museum most closely resembles the type of stirrup jar described by Swedish archaeologist Arn Furumark as FS179. Other examples of this shape can be found in the British Museum, and the Museum of Art and Archeology at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

One of the most interesting features of this jar is that it was labeled in antiquity with a Cypro-Minoan (sometimes also called Linear C) character. Cypro-Minoan script originated on the island of Cyprus in the Late Bronze age and is thought to have been derived from the Minoan script, Linear A. Labels of this type on pottery are called dipinti, meaning “painted.” While the meaning behind this type of marking is still unknown it is believed that they were applied separate from the rest of the decoration and could indicate a makers mark, or the owner of the contents, or some sort of routing information.

The following is a video discussing Cypro-Minoan script and what scholars have learned about it over the years. [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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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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