: Egyptian
: Late Predynastic, Naqada II, 3300-3000 B.C
: Diorite
: Height: 11.7 cm, diameter: 25.4 cm

Ex- Madame Marion Schuster, Lausanne, (1902 – 1982); collected Classical, Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities in the 1950’s-1960’s, mostly from the Geneva and Paris dealer Nicolas  Koutoulakis, with her long time partner, Charles Gillet (1879-1972), a well-known French industrialist and art collector.

Sotheby’s London July 10, 1990, Lot 321.


Egyptians were skillful stone makers; perfect shapes and high technical execution mark their products already in the Predynastic and throughout the Old Kingdom periods. Later the harder varieties of stone were no longer used as they were substituted by soft calcite (Egyptian alabaster). This bowl with depressed rounded body and flattened shoulder and rim, made of a hard stone of dark-green color with several white inclusions, is attractive because of the exotic beauty of the stone and the shining effect of the surface obtained by the high polish.

Some of the similar shape vessels found as part of burial equipment preserved their lids made of thin gold sheet and secured by fine gold wire or chain. This evidently imitates the way the ceramic ware, which was used in everyday life for utilitarian purposes, was covered with cloth and sealed by the owner.

In Ancient Egypt the stone vases were considered as first rate luxury objects: they appear only in the royal tombs as well as in the graves of the elite. The art of vessel carving had already reached its peak as far back as the Old Kingdom: for example, the artisans working under the pharaoh Djoser can be credited with tens of thousands of vessels that were placed in the magazines of the step pyramid of Saqqara – we are referring to 30 - 40,000 vases of various shapes and materials, the majority of which were found broken. The creation of these objects is a frequent subject on Old Kingdom painted murals, but very few ancient workshops have been discovered. The iconography seems to indicate that the carving commenced with the sculpted and polished exterior, before piercing the interior with the help of a drill, a stick would forked at one end to hold an abrasive stone. To assure even and centered drilling with the most stability, the rotation was achieved by alternating the drill, from one direction to the other. These different steps were accomplished by placing the vase in a hole in the ground or on a worktable. The final polishing involved rubbing the surface with a hard stone, sand or emery.

Beside the fact that stone vessels served as a gift to a burial, they were also executed for royal sacral donations and filled the deposits of votive objects in temples of gods. On some occasions they were sent abroad as diplomatic gifts. Archaeological finds confirm that the Egyptian stone vases were desirable trade products in the Levant and Crete, moreover they have been imitated in the local workshops.


ASTON B.G., Ancient Egyptian Stone Vessels, Materials and Form, Heidelberg, 1994.

BEVAN A., Stone Vessels and Values in the Bronze Age Mediterranean, Cambridge, 2007.

BEVAN A., Reconstructing the Role of Egyptian Culture in the Value Regimes of the Bronze Age Aegean: Stone Vessels and their Social Contexts in MATTHEWS R., ROEMER C., eds., Ancient Perspectives on Egypt, London, 2003, pp. 57-73.

EL-KHOULI A., Egyptian Stone Vessels: Predynastic to Dynasty III, 3 vol., Mainz am Rhein, 1978.

KLEMM R., KLEMM D. D., Stein und Steinbrüche in Alten Ägypten, Berlin, 1993.

NICHOLSON P. T., SHAW I., Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, Cambridge, 2000.

PETRIE W. M. F., The funeral furniture of Egypt; Stone and metal vases, London, 1937.

STOCKS D. A., Making Stone Vessels in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, in Antiquity, A Quarterly Review of Archaeology 67, 1993, pp. 596-603.


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