Canopic Vase, last quarter of the 6th century B.C., Terracotta
The Louvre Museum, Paris
The vase above – known as canopic, after the canopic urns of Egypt, used to house the visceral remains of the dead – is, in fact, a cinerary urn: it would have housed the ashes of the deceased after cremation. It's one of a number of other such urns (for another example, click here), depicted in this extraordinarily eye-catching anthropomorphising style. The lid, as we can see, has been shaped into a head, bearing a (stylised) portrait of the deceased; the fact that it's a woman being depicted is demonstrated by the holes in her earlobes, which would initially have carried earrings. Adding to the imitative style, the arms, extending from the handles of the jar either side, are articulated so as to be moveable – creating the impression that the figure is gesturing towards us from beyond the grave.