Terracotta pyxis (cylindrical box)

Period: Late Minoan III

Date: ca. 1400–1100 B.C.

Culture: Minoan

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: diameter 10 1/4in. (26cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: Gift of Alexander and Helene Abraham, in honor of Carlos A. Picón, 1999

Accession Number: 1999.423


This cylindrical pyxis with twin lifting handles stands near the end of a long ceramic tradition on Minoan Crete. Except for its lid, it is remarkably well preserved. Its shape is a less common variation of the characteristic Minoan pyxis that usually has a taller cylindrical body. The stylized snakes on the decorative panels likely relate to the vessel's funerary function.
The division of the main decorative zone into panels and the abstract decorative details suggest a date in the Late Minoan IIIB period, rather than earlier. Such artistic developments follow mainland Helladic pottery styles and are seen in many Minoan works from this time. During this period, Minoan potting and firing reached its apogee. While its painted decoration is not as fine as that of earlier works produced in the workshops of the Minoan palaces, this pyxis, with its hard, pale-colored fabric, was expertly thrown, making it a fine example of potting skills on Crete at the end of the Late Bronze Age.