Beak-spouted jug


Not on view

This spouted jug has a globular body, a flat base, and a high flaring rim. On one side is a looped handle with a tab at the top for the thumb, and on the other is a spout that rises upward from the jug’s body before extending out horizontally, though only a little bit of it remains. It is made of a pale, light pink clay, using a potter’s wheel, with the handle and spout added. It was excavated at Shahr-i Qumis in northern Iran, which has been identified as the ancient city of Hecatompylos, established by the Parthians as their capital by about 200 B.C. In Greek Hecatompylos means ‘a hundred gates,’ suggesting that the city was quite large. Indeed, the modern archaeological site includes several mounds, only a few of which have been excavated, and a vast area covered with potsherds. This vessel was found in a large building at Site V, which has been tentatively identified as an elite residence. This building was completely filled with dirt sometime in the late 1st century B.C. or early 1st century A.D., perhaps when the Parthian capital was moved elsewhere and the city’s elite residents left with it.

This vessel most likely served as a pitcher for pouring a liquid containing dregs, such as wine, since the round body and long spout would prevent the dregs from ending up in the cup. Indeed, clay bullae used to seal wine jars have been found elsewhere at the site. Long-spouted pitchers have a long history in Iran, going back to the late 2nd millennium B.C. This shape in particular closely resembles pitchers excavated from the Iron Age cemetery at Tepe Sialk, near Kashan. The pottery from Shahr-i Qumis thus illustrates the continuity of Iron Age ceramic traditions down into the Parthian era.

The excavations at Shahr-i Qumis by the British Institute of Persian Studies in 1967 were co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, this vessel was not discovered until 1971, and it was acquired from the British Institute as a result of the Met’s financial contributions to the Institute’s excavations at Tepe Nush-i Jan, another site in Iran. At the time the Iranian government allowed foreign excavators to keep a portion of the finds, and these excavators in turn would divide their share among the institutions that supported the work.

Beak-spouted jug, Ceramic, Parthian

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