H. 20 7/8 in. (53 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1959 (59.52)
Traditions of making painted pottery flourished in agricultural villages and nomad camps throughout the Near East by the Late Neolithic period of the seventh millennium B.C. These early ceramics were made by hand in a variety of techniques, including coil, mold, and slab construction, and served as cooking, serving, and storage vessels.
This large storage jar is a masterpiece of early pottery making. Produced in the early fourth millennium B.C. on the Iranian plateau, in a style known from excavations at the site of Tepe Sialk, it is a large buff-colored jar painted with dark brown designs. The geometric decoration on the upper portion of the vessel divides it into three panels. In each of these panels is the stylized image of an ibex shown in right profile, highlighting the great arch of its exaggerated horns. The ibex was the most common motif in prehistoric ceramics of highland Iran, perhaps because of its symbolic significance as prey to hunters.