Cycladic pottery pyxis with spiral decoration




An extremely rare grey pottery pyxis vessel and lid. The shoulder of the vessel is decorated with a band of incised conjoined double spirals above a zig-zag border, separated on each side by a pair of concave vertical pierced lugs. Above the shoulder are two continuous incised zig-zag lines. The lid is decorated with an irregular star pattern on a field of small incised dashes, and mounted with a single pierced lug handle.

Both the spiral and zig-zag decoration on this pyxis are also found on many of the enigmatic “frying pan” implements as well as stone vessels of the Cyclades, perhaps suggesting a linked function or meaning. This level of intricate decoration on a pottery pyxis or jar of this shape however is highly unusual.

Greek, Cycladic Islands, Cycladic II period, Keros-Syros Culture c. 2800-2300 BC, probably Syros

Repaired from three large pieces; around half the rim is lost as well as surface chips and general wear as seen in the photographs. The lid is repaired from two pieces with extensive losses as shown. There is no restoration and all surviving decoration is original.

7.8 x 14.8 cms including handles, 9.2 cms tall including lid

Ex. private estate, London, UK; formerly acquired by family descent. The collection was probably formed between c. 1880-1920.

For an undecorated pyxis of similar form and colour, now in the British Museum, please see:

For an example of a pottery “frying pan” with identical spiral and zig-zag decoration, now in the National Museum Athens, please see:

For a frying pan displaying an irregular star pattern on a field of incised dashes, now in the Cycladic Museum Athens:

For a painted pottery pyxis with similar double concave lug handles, now in the National Museum Athens:
For footed pottery jars from Syros with similar decoration, now in the National Museum Athens, please see: