Ancient Near Eastern Art:|
Funerary Urn in the Form of a House with Lid Surmounted by a Bird
North Africa, Libya, Tripoli, 2nd - 3rd centuries A.D. Ceramic, 10 1/4 x 16 x 9 1/2 in. (26 x 40.6 x 24.1 cm). Gift of Thelma Akin. 1995.4.1
Burial customs as well as religious beliefs and practices lasted over many centuries and were often resistant to new influences. During the first millennium B.C., Phoenician settlements established along the North African shores, from Libya to Morocco, gave rise to the Punic culture, whose traditions lasted in the region throughout the Roman times, up to the Arab conquest of North Africa.
The shape of this funerary urn is very specific to a series of tombs excavated at Oea (modern-day Tripoli). It resembles an elliptical casket with curved walls and a roofed top. A duck sits on the arris (peak of roof), covering a square opening through which the charred bones were placed in the urn. Sometimes, as in this example, the extremities of the roof curl up. Other ducks, in the shape of askoi (small vessels) were found in Punic tombs. The Aegean influence on those askoi is evident, and they were numerous in Punic burials where birds were associated with magical preoccupations.
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