In Ancient Egypt, alabaster jars were used as containers for ointment, perfume, and other cosmetic products, such as kohl. The alabaster used by ancient civilisations in the wider Middle East (including Egypt and Mesopotamia) is also called “oriental alabaster”, which is a type of calcite. Many ancient peoples used alabaster for decoration, as it was easy to carve and could be treated in such a way as to resemble marble. Although being a soft and slightly porous stone made alabaster easy to carve, the upshot was that it would not survive for significant periods of time when exposed to the elements. The name “alabaster” is thought to have derived from the Ancient Egyptian, ‘a-labaste‘, which refers to the vessels of the goddess, Bast. Usually depicted as a lioness, her figure would often sit on top of alabaster vessels.
Egyptian Middle Kingdom Alabaster Phial
A slender and finely carved alabaster phial with out-turned rim, parallel-sided body, and flat base.
Supplied with purpose-made stand (height with stand: 11 cm).
Period: Middle Kingdom
Condition: Very slight chip to the rim with a 13mm area of restoration, otherwise complete and intact.