Pottery Types

Ancient Greek Vases

Periods of Ancient Greek Pottery | Types of Greek Vases

Pottery containers decorated on the outside are common in the ancient world. The Greeks, Athenian potters in particular, standardized certain styles, perfected their techniques and painting styles, and sold their wares throughout the Mediterranean. Here are some of the basic types of Greek pottery vases, jugs, and other vessels.

Source: "Attic Red-Figured and White-Ground Pottery," by Mary B. Moore. The Athenian Agora, Vol. 30. (1997)

Patera

Large patera dish; terracotta; c. 340-32 B.C.; Artist: Patera Painter
Large patera dish; terracotta; c. 340-32 B.C.; H. without handles: 12.7 cm., 5 in. D: 38.1 cm., 15 cm. Artist: Patera Painter; Greek, South Italian, Apulian. Gift of Rebecca Darlington Stoddard, 1913 to the Yale University Art Gallery Accession Number: 1876
A patera was a flat dish used for pouring libations of liquids to the gods.

Pelike (Plural: Pelikai)

Woman and a youth, by the Dijon Painter. Apulian red-figured pelike, c. 370 B.C.
Woman and a youth, by the Dijon Painter. Apulian red-figured pelike, c. 370 B.C. at the British Museum. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Pelike comes from the Red-figure period, with early examples by Euphronios. Like the amphora, the pelike stored wine and oil. From the 5th century, funerary pelikai stored cremated remains. Its appearance is sturdy and practical.

Woman and a youth, by the Dijon Painter. Apulian red-figured pelike, c. 370 B.C. at the British Museum.

Loutrophoros (Plural: Loutrophoroi)

Protoattic loutrophoros, by the Analatos Painter (?) c. 680 B.C. at the Louvre.
Protoattic loutrophoros, by the Analatos Painter (?) c. 680 B.C. at the Louvre. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Loutrophoroi were tall and slender jars for weddings and funerals, with long, narrow neck, flaring mouth, and flat tops, sometimes with a hole in the bottom. Earliest examples are from the 8th century B.C. Most black figure loutrophoroi are funerary with funerary painting. In the fifth century, some vases were painted with battle scenes and others, marriage ceremonies.

Protoattic loutrophoros, by the Analatos Painter (?) c. 680 B.C. at the Louvre.

Stamnos (Plural: Stamnoi)

Odysseus and the Sirens by the Siren Painter. Attic red-figured stamnos, c. 480-470 B.C.
Odysseus and the Sirens by the Siren Painter (eponymous). Attic red-figured stamnos, c. 480-470 B.C. at the British Museum. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Stamnos is a lidded storage jar for liquids that was standardized during the red-figure period. It is glazed inside. It has a short, stout neck, a wide, flat rim, and a straight body that tapers to a base. Horizontal handles are attached to the widest part of the jar.

Odysseus and the Sirens by the Siren Painter (eponymous). Attic red-figured stamnos, c. 480-470 B.C. at the British Museum

Column Kraters

Corinthian column-krater, ca. 600 B.C. at the Louvre.
Corinthian column-krater, c. 600 B.C. at the Louvre. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Column Kraters were sturdy, practical jars with a foot, a flat or convex rim, and a handle extending beyond the rim on each side supported by columns. The earliest column krater comes from the late 7th century or earlier. Column kraters were most popular as black figure in the first half of the 6th century. Early red-figure painters decorated column-kraters.

Corinthian column krater, c. 600 B.C. at the Louvre.

Volute Kraters

Apulian Red-Figure Volute Krater, c. 330-320 B.C. at the British Museum.
Female head and vine tendril in the Gnathian technique. Apulian red-figured volute-krater, c. 330-320 B.C. British Museum. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

The largest of the kraters in canonical form by the late 6th century B.C. Kraters were mixing vessels for mixing wine and water. Volute describes the scrolled handles.

Female head and vine tendril in the Gnathian technique. Apulian red-figured volute krater, c. 330-320 B.C. British Museum.

Calyx Krater

Dionysos, Ariadne, satyrs and maenads. Side A of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater, c. 400-375 B.C.
Dionysos, Ariadne, satyrs and maenads. Side A of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater, c. 400-375 B.C. From Thebes. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons

Calyx kraters have flaring walls and the same type of foot used in the loutrophoros. Like other kraters, the calyx krater is used for mixing wine and water. Euphronios is among the painters of calyx kraters.

Dionysos, Ariadne, satyrs, and maenads. Side A of an Attic red-figure ​calyx krater, c. 400-375 B.C. From Thebes.

Bell Krater

Hare and Vines. Apulian bell-krater of the Gnathia style, c. 330 B.C. at the British Museum.
Hare and Vines. Apulian bell-krater of the Gnathia style, c. 330 B.C. at the British Museum. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Shaped like an inverted bell. Not attested before red-figure (like pelike, calyx krater, and psykter).

Hare and Vines. Apulian bell-krater of the Gnathia style, c. 330 B.C. at the British Museum.

Psykter

Warrior's departure. Attic black-figure psykter, c. 525-500 B.C. at the Louvre.
Warrior's departure. Attic black-figure psykter, c. 525-500 B.C. at the Louvre. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Psykter was a wine cooler with a broad bulbous body, a tall cylindrical stem, and a short neck. Earlier psykters had no handles. Later ones had two small loops on shoulders for carrying and a lid that fits over the psykter's mouth. Filled with wine, it stood in a (calyx) krater of ice or snow.

Warrior's departure. Attic black-figure psykter, c. 525-500 B.C. at the Louvre.

Don't Stop Here! More Pottery Types on the Next Page

Hydria (Plural: Hydriai)

Attic Black-Figure Hydria, c. 550 B.C., Boxers.
Attic Black-Figure Hydria, c. 550 B.C., Boxers. [www.flickr.com/photos/pankration/] Pankration Research Institute @ Flickr.com

Hydria is a water jar with 2 horizontal handles attached to shoulder for lifting, and one on the back for pouring, or carrying when empty.

Attic Black-Figure Hydria, c. 550 B.C., Boxers.

Oinochoe (Plural: Oinohoai)

Oinochoe of the wild-goat style. Kameiros, Rhodes, c. 625 BC–600 B.C.
Oinochoe of the wild-goat style. Kameiros, Rhodes, c. 625-600 B.C. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Oinochoe (oenochoe) is a jug for pouring wine.

Oinochoe of the wild-goat style. Kameiros, Rhodes, c. 625-600 B.C.

Lekythos (Plural: Lekythoi)

Theseus and the Marathonian bull, white-ground lekythos, c. 500 B.C.
Theseus and the Marathonian bull, white-ground lekythos, c. 500 B.C. CC Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikipedia.

Lekythos is a vessel for holding oil/unguents.

Theseus and the Marathonian bull, white-ground lekythos, c. 500 B.C.

Alabastron (Plural: Alabastra)

Alabastron. Molded glass, 2nd century B.C. - middle of the 1st century B.C., probably made in Italy.
Alabastron. Molded glass, 2nd century B.C. - middle of the 1st century B.C., probably made in Italy. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Alabastron is a container for perfume with a broad, flat mouth almost as wide as the body, and a short narrow neck carried on a string bound around the neck.

Alabastron. Molded glass, 2nd century B.C. - middle of the 1st century B.C., probably made in Italy.

Aryballos (Plural: Aryballoi)

Aryballos with Four Warriors LACMA M.80.196.68
Ashley Van Haeften/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Aryballos is a small oil container, with a broad mouth, short narrow neck, and spherical body.

Pyxis (Plural: Pyxides)

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus. Attic Red-Figure pyxis.
Wedding of Thetis and Peleus, by the Wedding Painter. Attic red-figure pyxis, c. 470-460 B.C. From Athens, at the Louvre. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Pyxis is a lidded vessel for women's cosmetics or jewelry.

Wedding of Thetis and Peleus, by the Wedding Painter. Attic red-figure pyxis, c. 470-460 B.C. From Athens, at the Louvre.

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