University Museums

Title: Alabastron
Name: Alabastron
Date: 6th-5th century BCE
Medium: Glass, core-formed
Country/Culture: Eastern Mediterranean
Dimensions: 4 5/8 × 1 1/2 in. diameter(11.7 × 3.8 cm)
Classification: Decorative Arts, Ceramics
Credit Line: Purchased by Curator's Club and given to University Museums. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: um89.44
More Information
This core-formed vessel takes its name from an Egyptian prototype made of alabaster. It is particularly unique due to its large size and virtually flawless white coloration. The shape, primarily the wide lip, indicates that the vessel was probably used as a receptacle for scented oil or perfume. The lip, once covered or smeared with the vessel's contents, would have been used as an applicator. The small duck-head handles were used to suspend the alabastron from the wrist or neck by a string.

The rarity of glass dating from this period enhances our notion that these vessels were shipped around the ancient world filled with perfumes and scented oils. Many contemporary perfumes are marketed in similar fashion: elegantly boxed and contained in distinguishing glass bottles.