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Milk Vase

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Early Dynasty 18 potters produced vessels with applied clay in the shape of a woman's head, arms, and breasts.

The Ebers Medical Papyrus, a list of remedies and prescriptions composed in the first years of the dynasty, describes the curative powers of breast milk from a woman who has given birth to a male child. According to the papyrus, a person in pain should store this milk in a jar until cream appears and then apply this cream to "all the sick places." A "milk vase" such as the example here may have contained this magic liquid.

MEDIUM Clay, pigment
  • Place Excavated: Sawama, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1539–1458 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 18
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 13 11/16 height × 6 in. diam. (34.8 × 15.2 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Large whitish buff color pottery jar with pointed base and high cylindrical neck with heavy rim. Female head, arms and breasts in high relief on neck. Form of vase is typical of the 18th dynasty. The details of the female body in high relief are somewhat unusual. Possibly they suggest Syrian influence through this is improbable. Upper part of body and rim decorated with two brownish-red bands. There is no evidence that vase ever contained anything and object was probably made for funerary equipment. Condition: Entire surface worn with some incrustation; small holes, probably defects in manufacture on body. General condition good.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Milk Vase, ca. 1539–1458 B.C.E. Clay, pigment, 13 11/16 height × 6 in. diam. (34.8 × 15.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 14.642. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 14.642_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 14.642_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2024
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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