Snake Handled Kyathos

Etruscan Bucchero Kyathos. Tomb G, Poggio Buco, Tuscany. 6th Century BCE. 8-1889

The prominent handle extending above the low-rimmed bowl is a sculpted snake, with a head on both ends with a relief of a human head where the handle meets the inner part of the cup. The kyathos shape was utilized primarily for wine drinking一 this complicates the understanding of the snake as a funerary symbol; indicating that serpentine motifs occupied many, seemingly non-funerary spaces. The two-headed nature is particularly interesting as it is not multi-stemmed, such as the Greek Hydra. Additionally, the human head is intriguing – is this an early depiction of a gorgon? What would the drinker of wine from this cup see in the snake and the human head? The fine craftsmanship of this delicate drinking cup continues to speak to us thousands of years beyond the grave— and represents the enduring dimensionality of the Etruscans.


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