Jar in the shape of human breasts

Polished red ware double pottery jar in the shape of human breasts: handmade, with a turned rim. There is a dark red slip on the exterior and inside the rim, and it is burnished vertically. The jar is of an unusual shape with two lobes dependent on a single neck.

Death was believed to be a return to the womb to be reborn, and the ancient Egyptians took this idea literally. This flask has a single neck that divides into two containers that represent breasts. Such jars provided the newly reborn dead with the nurture and nourishment they needed to flourish in the afterlife.

Jar in the shape of human breasts
Jar in the shape of human breasts
Jar in the shape of human breasts
Jar in the shape of human breasts

“Like any mother, the ancient Egyptian woman worried about her young child’s getting enough nourishment, in particular breast milk. Pharaonic texts indicate that magic spells could be recited to encourage milk production. Given the significance of breast milk in the feeding of infants, it comes as no surprise that the Egyptians developed remedies employing this life-giving liquid to treat other illnesses. Nursing was also critical to Egyptian religious belief, in which goddesses suckled the king to assure his divinity as well as the deceased to revitalize the spirit…”

Dawn of Egyptian Art, by Diana Craig Patch, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA, 2011

Badarian Culture, Predynastic Period, ca. 5500-4000 BC. Height: 21.6 cm. From An Nazlah al Mustajiddah, Asyut. Now in the Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden.