December 2018

Pyxis in form of a sea shell (scallop)

Πυξίδα σε σχήμα θαλασσινού κτενοειδούς οστράκου Τέλη 5ου - αρχές 4ου αι. π.Χ.

Sea shell replica (ancient Greek ὄστρειον, Latin Pecten jacobaeus) of the scallop family (Pectinidae).

It has been discovered in a girl's cist grave, in the excavation of the cemetery of Athenian colonists during the road-widening works on the N.Potidaia-N.Phokaia provincial road. It is made in alabaster and the ancient craftsman possibly used a model for sculpting the artefact.

This kind of shell occurs in the Mediterranean Basin, it also occurs, however, in the Atlantic Ocean. The actual dimensions of the shell in nature are smaller and its interior is edible. The various replications were usually made in metal and alabaster as pyxides, used for jewellery or cosmetic storage.

In ancient Greek pottery, in scenes representing Aphrodite's birth, the goddess appears rising from the sea inside a similar shell and its shape symbolizes the female fertility. It is often associated with the goddess Demeter and symbolizes the endless circle of life and death. This is the probable explanation of its funerary use.

Late 5th – early 4th c. BC
The exhibit is located at the temporary exhibition entitled: "COPYING (IN) THE PAST: IMITATION AND INSPIRATION STORIES", showcase 1.