Funerary Vessel

Date: 19th–20th century

Geography: Ghana

Culture: Akan peoples, Asante

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: Diam. 10 in. (25.4 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Containers

Credit Line: Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Milton F. Rosenthal Gift, 1980

Accession Number: 1980.68


This graceful, spool-shaped vessel features an elaborately flaring lip counterbalanced by a flattened, ornately decorated body. It is an elegant example of the funerary pottery made by Akan women artists.

The Akan peoples honor the deceased with accumulations of pottery vessels at spots in cemeteries called asensie, or "places of pots." These displays serve as points of remembrance for the living and facilitate communication with the deceased in the afterlife. Such pots may be more or less elaborate depending on the wealth and social standing of the person commemorated. Decoration ranges from the simple geometric designs of this vessel to raised figural ones evoking Akan proverbs that refer to the lineage of the deceased. While not created as receptacles for food, it is possible that simpler, more utilitarian examples may have been employed in the final meal that marked the end of the funerary rites.