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Napatan Period Terracotta Pilgrim Flask

Napatan Period Terracotta Pilgrim Flask

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Kingdom of Kush, Napatan Period, c. 700-400 BC, Lower and Upper Nubia (Sudan), Africa 

Important, rare small-sized pottery pilgrim flask of circular shape with a biconvex body, decorated on each side with shallow concentric grooves. The vessel is comprised of two hemispherical halves, joined vertically, with soft seams. A narrow, short neck is inserted at the top and is flanked at its base by two small loop handles. These tightly folded handles are weakened versions and non-functional. The top of the neck is finished with a rolled rim.

The Napatan Period is named after the town Napata, the capital of a powerful Nubian state during this period (700–656 BC). It is located approximately 1,5 kilometers from the right side of the river at the site of modern Karima, Sudan. Rulers of this Kushite kingdom, as the state is commonly called, seems heavily influenced by the Egyptians, such as their gods and writing systems. The kings were buried in small pyramids (the royal necropolis are located not far at Nuri and el Kurru) with an Egyptian style funerary equipments like shabtis, pots, sarcophagi, canopy jars. Napata was religious centre of the country. By 750 BC, the Kushite kings conquered Egypt and ruled as Egypt’s 25th Dynasty (750-656 BC). Napata remained the capital until the end of the 25th Dynasty when it was relocated to Meroë.

Good condition. Traces of external red slip paint. Age-related wear. Fractures and cracks. Repaired. Glue residue. Mineral encrustation and earthen deposits. Traces of old museum label. Size approx. 9,1cm x 7,7cm x 6,1cm.

Provenance: Finnish private collection.

For a similar examples see:

Small pilgrim flask, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Accession Number: 20.4804 (

Pilgrim flask, The British Museum, Accession Number: EA22340 (

Small pilgrim flask, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Accession Number: 20.4805 (

Pink pilgrim ware flask, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Accession Number: AN1920.220 (

References and further reading:

Pilgrim flasks: Chronological and cultural transformations in Nubia from the New Kingdom to the Napatan Period Volume I, L. Kilroe, ORA - Oxford University Research Archive, 2019

The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization, László Török, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Erste Abteilung, Nahe und der Mittlere Osten, 1997, Vol. 31, Leiden: Brill.

Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa, Geoff Emberling, New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2011, pp. 9–11.

Meroe and the Sudanic Kingdoms, David N. Edwards, The Journal of African History. 39 (2), 1998, pp. 175–193.

Nubia: the Napatan Period, Digital Egypt for Universities, University College London, 2002. (

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