Terracotta larnax (chest-shaped coffin)

Period: Late Minoan IIIB

Date: mid-13th century B.C.

Culture: Minoan

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: Overall with lid 40 x 18 x 42 1/4 in. (101.6 x 45.7 x 107.3 cm)
H. of body 30 1/2 in. (77.5 cm)
H. of lid 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)

Classification: Terracottas

Credit Line: Anonymous Gift, in memory of Nicolas and Mireille Koutoulakis, 1996

Accession Number: 1996.521a, b


This type of terracotta Minoan larnax (chest) with gabled lid was the standard burial vessel used in Crete from the early fourteenth to twelfth century B.C. Typically, it has a raised border and recessed panels on all four sides. Its structure suggests a wooden prototype, and recent scholarship has identified Egyptian linen chests as the probable models. The deceased was placed in a flexed position, and the larnax was secured with a cord strung through the holes in its rim and lid.
Spirals, wavy lines, checkerboards, and multiple arcs decorate the body and lid of this larnax. These nonfigural motifs, which are also well attested in contemporary pottery, may be simply decorative, or they may be conventional renderings of naturalistic images, such as rocky terrain or the sea.