Ancient Egypt, Pre-Dynastic Period, Naqada II, ca. 3500 BCE. A beautifully carved serpentine jar, shaped like an acorn, with perforated lug handles on its shoulders, a round, flat base, and a rimmed collar. The stone is a beautiful, mottled green with cream-colored veins. The carving is so delicate and skillful, the walls of the vessel so thin, that light shines through the creamy areas of the walls. Size: 3.9" W x 3.95" H (9.9 cm x 10 cm)
In addition to being quite striking, this jar represents a technological leap forward for the ancient Egyptians. In the early Pre-Dynastic, artisans hollowed out hard stone vessels using hand-held stone borders and abrasive desert sand. Then, during the Naqada II period (ca. 3600 to 3200 BCE), the invention of copper tubes used to drill very hard stones (in conjunction with sand as an abrasive), allowed people to drill finer forms - like, for example, these lugged handles. However, copper drills only allowed artisans to drill cylindrical items, and so the hollowing out of bulbous vessels like this one still required use of an elongated stone borer in the form of a figure-of-eight. Imagine the hours of work that went into making this single jar!
Provenance: private Chicago, Illinois, USA collection; ex-Arte Primitivo Gallery New York, USA; ex-private New York, USA collection, acquired pre-1948
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