Terracotta chariot krater

Period: Late Helladic IIIB

Date: ca. 1300–1230 B.C.

Culture: Helladic, Mycenaean

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: H. 16 3/8 in. (41.6 cm)
diameter 12 1/8 in. (30.8 cm)

Classification: Vases

Credit Line: The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76

Accession Number: 74.51.966


The scene depicted on both sides of this krater follows the tradition of Mycenaean chariot representations from the beginning of the fourteenth century B.C. Two tall, armless figures wearing long, spotted robes stand in a chariot drawn by a pair of horses. Flecks of paint on the box of the chariot may indicate that it was covered with the hide of an ox. The horses follow the convention of Mycenaean vase painting: when two horses are meant to be represented, the painter, in an attempt to show perspective, depicts only one body, with two tails, two pairs of hindlegs and forelegs, as well as two heads.
Stylized, high-stemmed flowers or abstract motifs decorate the background of the scene. To the right of the chariot, a female figure wearing a long robe stands with both arms raised and fingers splayed in what must be a meaningful gesture. Her breasts are rendered as two spirals, and the features of her face resemble those of the figures in the chariot. Most likely she is bidding goodbye to departing warriors, a familiar scene on earlier chariot kraters.
Large numbers of Mycenaean vases began to inundate the Cypriot market at the beginning of the fourteenth century B.C., perhaps as a result of extensive trade relations between the Argolid, a region in the Peloponnesos, and the eastern Mediterranean. The krater was a popular form in the repertoire of Mycenaean vases, found almost exclusively in tombs on Cyprus. Sometimes as many as half of the objects in fourteenth and thirteenth century B.C. tombs on Cyprus consist of Mycenaean pottery. Pictorial vases, like this one, were probably connected with funerary practices and, in some regions, may have served as vessels that held the remains of the deceased.