A Holy Land Terracotta Bilbil, Late Bronze Age, ca. 1550 - 1200 BCE
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Base-ring ware was an important part of imported pottery in the Holy Land. Most typical of this group is the jug, with the slender oblique neck, standing on a ring base. It featured a metallic, brown-gray-red burnished slip. The decoration is either painted or is relief lines. This type is known as ‘bilbil’. Analysis of substances found inside some bilbil has shown that they were used to hold the drug opium. The shape of the jug is strikingly (and fittingly) like that of an upturned poppy head. A large Holy Land base-ring ware pottery jug, with a single handle and tall cylindrical neck encircled by two molded bands, the vessel with rounded body and ring base, the relief decoration consisting of a double-spiral motif on the body, two bands around the neck at the join of the handle and a further band around the base of the neck.
Background: This period generally coincides with the vibrant New Kingdom period in Egypt when Palestine primarily was under Egyptian control, a rule that became more concentrated and demanding toward the end of the period. Canaan also maintained extensive trade connections with Aegean and northeastern Mediterranean powers. Cypriot pitchers called “bilbils” and shaped as poppyseed heads (upside-down), were among the most popular Palestinian imports. They may have been used to transport opium in wine or water from Cyprus to other Mediterranean sites.
For a related example see: Amiran, R. “Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land” (Rutgers University Press, 1970) no. 7, plate 54 pp.176-177.
Dimensions: Height: 9 3/4 inches (25 cm)
Condition: the surface darkened and with pitting, accretions, and with minor chips, with two notable chips to the foot rim, and a loss to the applied detail on the body
Provenance: David F. Hoff, TX (1948 - 2021) private collection, acquired between 1993 - 1997 and then by descent.