A Visual Glossary of Greek Pottery

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Mark Cartwright
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published on 24 May 2013
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Corinthian Alabastron Vase
Corinthian Alabastron Vase
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Getty Villa, Malibu) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Alabastron (pl. alabastra) - a small jar for storing perfumes, named after the material (alabaster) the first examples were made from. They were often carried by a string looped around the neck of the vessel.

Greek Foot Race
Greek Foot Race
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Amphora (pl. amphorae) - one of the most common forms in Greek pottery, various shapes, always with two vertical neck-handles and used for storing and transporting oil, wine and foodstuffs such as olives. Often with a lid but these have rarely survived.

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Minoan Vase in Marine Style
Minoan Vase in Marine Style
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Askos (pl. askoi) - named after the wineskin which it resembles in shape. The small neck implies they were used for pouring liquids in a small quantity, e.g.: fine oil, honey and vinegar.

Astragalos (pl. astragaloi) - a vessel shaped like a knucklebone from which it takes its name and which may have been used to store sheep knucklebones which were used as gaming pieces or dice.

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Barbotine Ware - a style of pottery with decorative excrescenses.

Bell-Krater - a particular form of the krater vessel with a body shaped like an upside down bell, the handles are placed high on the vessel and the foot is stepped.

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Hercules & The Nemean Lion
Hercules & The Nemean Lion
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Black-Figure Style Decoration (c. 620 - c.530 BCE) Invented in Corinth, the style was adopted in Attica to become the dominant style in Greek pottery. Figures were painted in black silhouette with details such as muscles and hair incised using a sharp instrument.

Calyx Krater
Calyx Krater
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Calyx Krater - a krater with a body shaped like a flower calyx, usually with a stepped foot.

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Attic Column-Krater
Attic Column-Krater
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Column-Krater - a type of krater (wine and water mixer) popular in the black-figure style with each handle supported by a short vertical 'column'.

Dinos (pl. dinoi) - a large round-bottomed bowl with no handles and used for mixing wine with water. Usually placed on a ceramic stand or metal tripod.

Epinetron
Epinetron
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Epinetron (pl. epinetra) - a half-cyclinder worn over the thigh with the closed end over the knee, used for preparing wool for weaving. The upper surface was often incised to make a rough surface against which the wool fibres could be rubbed. Often with a female head at the closed end.

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Boeotian Exaleiptron
Boeotian Exaleiptron
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Exaleiptron (pl. exaleiptra) - a vessel used to store fine oil or perfume with an inverted lip to prevent spillage and usually lidded. Pottery decoration show them in a context of women bathing or during funerary rites. Also known as a kothon.

Minoan Vase
Minoan Vase
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Figure-of-eight Vase - named after the distinctive handle shape, from the Minoan civilization.

Fish Plate - a flat dish with a short foot used for serving fish and seafood. A central depression collected excess oil. Produced from the 4th century BCE they were popular in Attica and Magna Graecia. Usually decorated with fish and sealife, fish on Attic dishes were almost always painted with their undersides towards the outer edge whilst those from southern Italy had their undersides towards the centre of the plate.

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Minoan Jug in Floral Style
Minoan Jug in Floral Style
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Floral Style Decoration - a decorative style from Minoan Crete using plant and flower motifs (c. 1600 - 1450 BCE).

Geometric Pottery Designs
Geometric Pottery Designs
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Geometric Style Decoration - the use of simple shapes and lines, later with stylized figures of animals and humans (900-600 BCE).

Graffito (pl. graffiti) - A mark incised into the vase (usually under the foot), most commonly letters or numbers but sometimes also words and short phrases. They may indicate prices, trademarks or ownership. Simliar marks, but painted, are called dipinto.

Red-figure Hydria
Red-figure Hydria
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Hydria (pl. hydriai) - used principally to store water and one of the commonest shapes in Greek pottery. Two horizontal handles were for carrying the vessel when full and one vertical handle used when pouring. They could also be used as a burial container for children. They were also often made in bronze versions.

Mycenaean Jug
Mycenaean Jug
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Jug - with a spout and single handle, used for pouring liquids.

Kamares Ware Pottery
Kamares Ware Pottery
Ori Keren (CC BY-NC-SA)

Kamares Style Decoration - a polychrome decorative style from the Minoan civilization using bold designs in red or white on a black background (c. 2000 - c. 1700 BCE).

Black-figure Kantharos
Black-figure Kantharos
Egisto Sani (used with permission) (Copyright)

Kantharos (pl. kantharoi) - a cup with two large vertical handles and a stemmed foot.

Jason brings Pelias the Golden Fleece
Jason brings Pelias the Golden Fleece
Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC BY-SA)

Kerch Style Decoration - named after the palce where many examples have been found they are decorated with distinctive gilded details in low relief. Originally form Athens.

Francois Vase
Francois Vase
Fiona Willis (CC BY)

Krater (pl. krateres) - a large vessel with two handles, used to mix water and wine, usually to a ratio of 3:1 or 5:3.

Attic Kyathos
Attic Kyathos
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Getty Villa, Malibu) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Kyathos (pl. kyathoi) - a ladle-like cup used for serving wine.

Apollo with Lyre
Apollo with Lyre
Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA)

Kylix (pl. kylikes)- a stemmed cup with two horizontal handles and a stemmed foot, used for drinking wine. One of the most common shapes in Greek pottery, over 30 varieties exist.

Lebes Gamikos
Lebes Gamikos
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Lebes Gamikos (pl. lebetes gamikoi) - a large vase with two upright handles often with a conical stand and lid. Used during marriage and burial ceremonies.

Attic Lekanis
Attic Lekanis
Egisto Sani (Copyright)

Lekanis (pl. lekanides) - a shallow vessel with a foot and two horizontal handles and often with a single handled lid. The dish was used for storage of small articles (especially for women) and for serving food (when the lid, overturned, became a second serving dish).

Attic Lekythos
Attic Lekythos
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC)

Lekythos (pl. lekythoi)- used to store fine oils and perfumes, often dedicated in burials and decorated in reference to this function, often with a white background.

Louterion (pl. louteria) - a large basin vessel with two handles and sometimes a spouted lip. Used for holding water for washing or perhaps mixing wine and water. A third function may have been connected with funerary rites such as washing the body.

Apulian Loutrophoros
Apulian Loutrophoros
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Loutrophoros (pl. loutrophoroi) - a tall slim jar with elongated handles, used for holding water used in wedding and funeral rites and as a grave marker, especially when the deceased was unmarried.

Marine Style Decoration - found in Minoan and Mycenaean pottery with the depiction of sea-life, particularly octupuses, argonauts and shellfish (from c. 1600 BCE) .

Etrurian Mastos
Etrurian Mastos
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Portlan Art Museum) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Mastos (pl. mastoi) - a wine cup shaped like a female breast with a nipple at the base instead of a foot.

Neck-Amphora - an amphora where the neck joins the shoulder of the vessel at a sharp angle.

New Palace Style Decoration - the late Minoan decorative style using more stylisitc representations of plants and marine life (from 1450 BCE).

Cypriot Pitcher
Cypriot Pitcher
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Oinochoe (pl. oinochoai) - jug or pitcher for pouring liquids, principally wine.

Greek Pottery Ornaments
Greek Pottery Ornaments
Ori Keren (CC BY-NC-SA)

Ornament - decorative patterns and floral designs added to the foot, rim, handles and borders of vessels. Lotus, palmettes, ivy, meander, rays, tongues and rosettes were the most popular.

Red-figure Pelike
Red-figure Pelike
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Pelike (pl. pelikai) - a jar used for storing liquids such as oils and wines. Also used to contain ashes after cremation.

Nike
Nike
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Phiale (pl. phialai) - a shallow bowl used for wine and pouring libations in religious ceremonies. Often with an upraised knob in the centre which gives the vessel its name - omphalos (naval).

Pinax (pl. pinakes) - a decorative plaque affixed to walls in tombs and temples.

Pithoi
Pithoi
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Pithos (pl. pithoi) - from the Minoan civilization, a large jar for the storage of foodstuffs such as grain and olives. Large magazines of pithoi are a typical feature of Minoan palace complexes.

Satyr Kantharos
Satyr Kantharos
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Plastic Vase - A vase which incorporates a small sculpture as part of the vessel.

Maenad, Red-Figure Cup
Maenad, Red-Figure Cup
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Plate - a circular flat dish with a raised rim.

Proto-Geometric Style Decoration - with simple shapes such as spirals and solid black lines, a pre-cursor of the more ambitious Geometric Style (c. 1000 - 900 BCE).

Corinthian Vessel with Protome
Corinthian Vessel with Protome
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Getty Villa, Malibu) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Protome (pl. protomai or protomes) - three dimensional moulds added to vessels, especially handles. Often in the form of animals or the human upper body.

Attic Psykter
Attic Psykter
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Psykter (pl. psykters or psykteres) - a large vase shaped like a mushroom and used to cool wine. They could be placed within a krater or stand alone.

Attic Pyxis
Attic Pyxis
Peter Roan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Pyxis (pl. pyxides) - a small circular box with a lid, often used for the storage of jewellery and toileteries.

Greek Erotic Scene
Greek Erotic Scene
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Red-Figure Style Decoration (from c. 530 BCE) Replacing the earlier black-figure style, vessels were painted black to leave unpainted figures the red colour of the original clay. Details were then added to the figures using a fine brush. Much greater attempts were made at realism and perspective in this style.

Mycenaean Rhyta
Mycenaean Rhyta
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Rhyton (pl. rhyta) - used in relgious practices for the pouring of libations, they may also take the shape of animal heads, especially bulls.

Greek Athlete With Strigil
Greek Athlete With Strigil
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Skyphos (pl. skyphoi) - deep cup or bowl with two handles near the rim.

Squat Alabastron Jar
Squat Alabastron Jar
Trustees of the British Museum (Copyright)

Squat Alabastron - a flat jar for storing creams and ungents, first appearing in Minoan Crete and popular in the Mycenaean period. Early examples were made from alabaster, hence the name.

Stamnos (pl. stamnoi) - a jar with a wide mouth, often with a lid and two handles, used for mixing wine and water.

Mycenaean Stemmed Cup
Mycenaean Stemmed Cup
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at the Getty Villa, Malibu) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Stemmed Cup - a drinking cup with two handles, a stem and base. Popular in the Mycenaean civilization, they would later develop into the unbiquitous kylix.

Mycenaean Stirrup Jar
Mycenaean Stirrup Jar
Mary Harrsch (Photographed at The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore) (CC BY-NC-SA)

Stirrup Jar - first appearing on Minoan Crete but the most common shape in Mycenaean pottery, with a false central spout, used to store wine and oils.

Black-Figure Tondo
Black-Figure Tondo
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Tondo (pl. tondi) - the picture enclosed in a circle found on the inside of a kylix or plate.

Tripod Pyxis
Tripod Pyxis
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Tripod Pyxis (pl. pyxides) - A pyxis with three concave legs, also called a tripod-kothon.

Vasiliki Style Decoration - the first distinctive Minoan style of pottery decoration using mottled red and black colours (c. 2600-2000 BCE). Named after the site where the first examples were excavated.

Greek Volute Krater
Greek Volute Krater
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

Volute-Krater - a krater where the tops of the handles have a volute or scroll. More commonly decorated in the red-figure style.

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About the Author

Mark Cartwright
Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at WHE.

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Cite This Work

APA Style

Cartwright, M. (2013, May 24). A Visual Glossary of Greek Pottery. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/article/489/a-visual-glossary-of-greek-pottery/

Chicago Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Greek Pottery." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified May 24, 2013. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/489/a-visual-glossary-of-greek-pottery/.

MLA Style

Cartwright, Mark. "A Visual Glossary of Greek Pottery." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 24 May 2013. Web. 02 Dec 2021.

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