Black top vase, c. 4000-3000 BCE

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Used as household items by the ancient Egyptians, black top vases were also deposited in tombs where they typically held food for the afterlife.

Such vessels were shaped from clay coils without the aid of a potter's wheel or a kiln. They were fired on an open flame and while still hot, thrust upside down into carbonizing organic material giving them their characteristic black tops. Finally, the jars were burnished bringing their surfaces to a fine luster. With its refined shape and beautifully abstract coloration, this vase is a testament to what can be accomplished with the simplest technology.

Black top vase
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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