Egypt, Pre-Dynastic, Naqada III period, ca. 3200 to 3000 BCE. An incredibly rare and well-preserved example of an iconic form, this is a heavy, bulbous jar made from breccia, with a variegated surface of smooth and rough stone. Two cylindrical, lug handles project from either side, drilled through with narrow, round perforations, presumably for hanging. A narrow, rounded rim delineates the wide mouth. The exterior has been polished to be generally smooth, but the interior surface gives a better understanding of the rough material that the artisans had to work. Size: 8.55" W x 4.7" H (21.7 cm x 11.9 cm)
In addition to being quite striking, this jar represents a technological leap forward for the ancient Egyptians. In the early Pre-Dynastic period, artisans hollowed out hard stone vessels using hand-held stone borers and abrasive desert sand. Then, during the Naqada II period (ca. 3600 to 3200 BCE), the invention of copper tubes used to drill very hard stones (in conjunction with sand as an abrasive), allowed people to drill finer forms - like, for example, these lug handles. However, copper drills only allowed artisans to drill cylindrical items, and so the hollowing out of bulbous vessels like this one still required use of an elongated stone borer in the form of a figure-eight to get under the shoulder. Imagine the hours of work that went into making this single jar!
See a much smaller version of a pre-Dynastic breccia jar in a lot of three that sold at Christie's in 2015 for approximately $7938: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/three-egyptian-stone-vases-predynastic-period-naqada-5926317-details.aspx
Provenance: private Southern California, USA collection, acquired in the 1970s to mid-1980s
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Surface wear, including some scratching and small chips, commensurate with age. Rim is repaired and restored in one place, with repair almost impossible to discern.