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The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology

Shapes of Greek vases

Ancient Greeks made pots to be used and they had many different shapes for different purposes. The basic form of each pot provides a clue to its function. For example, the open form of a shallow kylix or a deep kantharos or krater allows you to see and reach what's inside.

Some serving containers, like the krater, were too heavy to be carried around so they sat on a table at the middle of the party. But if you wanted to move around then a closed form would stop things from spilling out. The amphora has two big handles to help you carry it. The oinochoe is made for pouring liquid: this is why it has a fancy lip.

Sometimes they kept precious things on display in a pot with an open form or hidden in a pot with a closed form. They put jewellery and makeup in a pyxis, an opened shape that was closed with a lid. They put their most prized possession, oil, in a lekythos or a kothon. The lekythos, which has a closed form, has a narrow neck to stop the oil from pouring out too quickly. The rim of the kothon curves in to catch oil from spilling out.

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File last modified: 20 Sep 2017