A beautiful alabaster vessel with slender, narrow proportions accentuated by the more or less translucent veins of the stone. Two small handles are distributed on the upper belly. At the neck, the vessel narrows and terminates in a rounded, broad rim typical of the alabastron. This type of vessel imitates the basic shape of a miniature jar. It served to store and carry precious oils, most often used during funerary rituals.
Originating in Egypt, where they were found in tombs in the pre-Pharaonic period already, alabastra quickly spread throughout the ancient world (including Mesopotamia) and were later made of stone, of ceramic and metal. The even, perfectly symmetrical shape of this vessel indicates that after a rough modeling, the carver would have used a rotating technique, probably employing some sort of lathe; the vessel was finally smoothed and polished with emery or sand.
Such stone vessels were manufactured in Egypt in the predynastic period already, and the technique probably spread from the banks of the Nile to different parts of the ancient world. The production of fine stone vessels has a long tradition in ancient Egypt. Calcite, also known as the “Egyptian alabaster”, was one of the most famous materials used for this type of cosmetics containers.