|Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology|
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|Highlights of the Collection: Prehistoric Terracottas|
|Vessel with bull's head (AN1888.625)||Back to previous page|
The basic form of this vessel is that of a round-bottomed jug tilted on its side, with four legs added (the two back legs have broken off) and a bull's head where the mouth of the jug would normally be. The remains of two handle stumps can be seen on the raised "dorsal ridge" which runs down the back of the bull. At the lower end of the ridge is another stump where the tail may have broken off. The bull has a rather sweet, and most unferocious, face. It has two horns (one broken), a slightly open mouth formed by a deep incision, and eyes indicated by shallow round incisions which may originally have held some inlaid material. There is a hole on the top of the head, between the horns, but the mouth is not pierced. The vessel is decorated with patterns of incised parallel lines and zigzags, with traces of white fill still visible in places.
Such vessels in the form of animals (including bulls, deer, sheep and occasionally donkeys) are quite common in Red Polished and Black Polished ware and continue to be found in the White Painted ware of the Middle Bronze Age. Most of our examples come from tombs, and it is conventional to think of them as having some solemn ritual function or significance. However, they are so charmingly inventive and so individual that it is hard not to imagine that there was at least some element of light-heartedness involved in their modelling.
Red Polished III, c. 2000 BC. No provenance.
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