A Late Corinthian vessel with a squat, flat body, cylindrical in form, and a rim that is abruptly and deeply turned-in, making it unsuitable for drinking. The object is decorated all around by red and black stripes, part in a honeycomb pattern. It has a strap handle in the shape of a double S.
This type of container is usually referred to as an exaleiptron, which takes its name from the Greek verb exaleipho, "to anoint, to wash". Such vessels were most likely used to hold liquids like unguents and perfumed oil, and its inward-curving lip would prevent spilling of the precious liquid whilst carrying. However, some scientists have suggested that they were lamps (with leaning or floating wicks), scent vases, censers, containers of pigments and paints or of soap.
There is also still a debate about the correct name of this type of vessel. Some believe it is what the ancient Greeks called a kothon, although this name may not be the correct ancient name, referring to a vessel from which one can drink, which is rather difficult from vessels of this type; others would prefer to call it a plemochoe, another type of container with a similar shape (possibly a subcategory of the exaleiptron), which was for instance used during the Eleusinian Mysteries.
This type of containers was usually made of clay, but some are also known made out of marble, as luxury items for wealthy women. Some of them may have one or more feet, others have a flat base.
For an old but still useful overview of types and theories see the articles by Pernice and by Burrows and Ure quoted below. Our vessel belongs to class A in the classification given by Burrows and Ure (p. 73-75), who also illustrate parallels in the British Museum London and elsewhere.
R.M. Burrows - P.N. Ure, "Kothons and Vases of Allied Types", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 31 (1911), p. 72-99; E. Pernice, "Kothon und Räuchergerat", Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 14 (1899), p. 60-72; Ingeborg Scheibler, "Exaleiptra", Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 79, 1964, p. 72–108; Idem, "Kothon – Exaleiptron (Addenda)", Archäologischer Anzeiger 1968, p. 389–397; Wolfgang Schiering, Griechischen Tongefässe. Gestalt, Bestimmung und Formenwandel (Berlin, Gebr. Mann, 1967; 2nd edition 1983), p. 142-143.
Circa 6th century B.C.
Overall length 17.6 cm, outside diameter 15.3 cm, height 5 cm.
Collection of Siegfried Schmidli, Biel, Switzerland; thereafter with Jean-David Cahn in 2007.
Small chip to one point of the handle, paint slightly worn, as shown, otherwise intact.