Kernos (vase for multiple offerings), Early Cycladic III–Middle Cycladic I, ca. 2300–2200 b.c.
Terracotta; H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2004 (2004.363.1)
Jar, Early Cycladic III–Middle Cycladic I, ca. 2300–1900 b.c.
Terracotta; H. 16 3/8 in. (41.6 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2004 (2004.363.2)
Jug, Early Cycladic III–Middle Cycladic I, ca. 2300–1900 b.c.
Terracotta; H. 10 5/8 in. (27 cm)
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2004 (2004.363.3)
These vessels were found on Melos in 1829 by Captain Richard Copeland, whose widow gave them to Eton College in 1857. Of the three, the kernos is the most intriguing and complex. The vessel features two concentric rings of twenty-five flasklike containers around a central bowl that is attached to a stand with a flaring foot. A series of struts connects the components. The struts attest to the intricacy of this type of Cycladic vessel, most of which come from Melos, notably the cemetery at Phylakopi. Their purpose is unknown, but they must have had a ritual, ceremonial, or funerary use, perhaps to hold offerings of seeds, grains, fruit, or liquids. Most have between three and twelve containers and are simpler than the present example, which is one of the larger, most elaborate, and elegant kernoi to have survived.
The painted decoration of the jar is similar to that of the kernos, with rows of alternating narrow and broad chevrons and designs in dark glaze over white slip. The jug is more extensively decorated with comparable motifs. Complete examples of the type of similar quality are exceedingly rare. All three vessels represent Cycladic pottery at its most precise and accomplished, and presumably they came from the same tomb, probably at Phylakopi.