Cylindrical jar

Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1, reign of Den
2873–2859 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Abydos, Tomb of Den


Height: 15.5 cm (6 1/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Egypt: Pre-Dynastic and Dynastic (Gallery 105A)


The Ancient World



Superbly crafted stone vessels are among the most impressive products of Early Dynastic art. Artists chose and shaped their stone carefully to maximize the decorative effect of the natural color and banding. Travertine was the most popular choice, because it is soft and relatively easy to work, as well as beautifully translucent. Harder stones such as the rare, green volcanic tuff were prized for their color, fine grain, and smooth surface. To manufacture jars, artisans first produced a smooth, solid stone cylinder. Then they carefully drilled out the interior and polished both the interior and exterior with an abrasive such as sand. Tubular drills were made of copper or flint, and by the Early Dynastic Period craftspeople had access to a new type of drill, tipped with stone and turned by means of a crank.

This cylindrical jar demonstrates the skill of the era’s best stone workers. It was discovered in the tomb of the First Dynasty king Den, at Abydos, and must be the product of a royal workshop. The design of this vessel is clean and elegant, the sole decoration consisting of a line of rope patterning, enhanced by incised hatching, just below the rim. Although the rope motif originally derived from the wavy ledge handles of Predynastic pottery jars, it had become purely ornamental by this time.


From Abydos, tomb of Den. 1901: excavated by William Matthew Flinders Petrie for the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the Egypt Exploration Fund in the division of finds by the government of Egypt, received by the MFA through subscription to the Egypt Exploration Fund.
(Accession Date: August 1, 1901)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription