Greek pottery shapes

A Basic Guide to greek pottery shapes



Alabastra were small vases used by women for storing perfume or oil.


Amphora means ”to carry on both sides.” Amphorae were used for carrying and storing solids and liquids.


Choes were jugs. Small versions of these were associated with the young.
Choes are usually decorated with children, perhaps learning to crawl or playing with toy carts as in this case.
When boys were 3 years old, they were given a chous filled with wine at the Anthesteria festival. They would be allowed to drink the wine to prove that they were on their way to being men. Sometimes choes were put in the graves of children.


Chytrai were cooking pots. The fact that these large pots are clumsy, undecorated and made out of rough clay is a big clue to their function.
Chytrai are basic cooking pots, used for heating water or soup on the fire.


Hydriai were used to carry water. One of the daily duties for women was to collect water from the communal fountain. For Greek citizens it was important that women stayed at home as much as possible, so usually it was the slave women who queued at the fountain and chatted with each other, before carrying their heavy load back in large hydriai.


Kantharoi were drinking cups with two vertical handles.


Krater comes from a word meaning ”mix”. Kraters were used for mixing wine with water.
The Greeks thought it uncivilized to drink their wine neat, so these large bowls were used to mix wine with water. Kraters were used at drinking parties called symposia, where men would talk and enjoy the company of male friends, whilst their wives were prevented from taking part.


Kylikes were special wine cups. Kylikes were used at symposia, which were after-dinner drinking parties for men.


Lekanides were small, shallow bowls used by women for storing jewellery and trinkets. Lekanides were often given as wedding gifts.


Lekythoi were olive oil bottles especially used for funerals and as grave gifts. The olive oil was an offering to the dead person.


The name for this large vase means ”carrying to the bath.” Loutrophoroi were used to hold water for bridal bathing or for washing bodies before burial.

For her special day, a Greek woman would be washed and perfumed before putting on fine clothes and jewellery.
Before being placed in tombs, dead bodies were ceremonially washed and prepared by women. This water was sometimes stored in loutrophoroi.


Oinochoai were wine jugs.


Psykteres were wine coolers. Psykteres were special items for the symposium. The psykter would be filled with ice-cold water and set in the middle of a large bowl (a krater) filled with wine, so as to cool it.


Pyxides were small pots in which women stored their cosmetics, powder or jewellery. Women used certain plants and types of seaweed as a form of rouge. They would also darken their eyebrows with charcoal, and lighten their skin with a whitener made from lead and vinegar.


Stamnoi were used for holding wine before mixing it with water. Stamnoi could be used at symposia, which were after-dinner drinking parties for men.

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