Pithos (plural pithoi) is the ancient Greek word ("πίθος", "πίθοι") for a large storage jar of a characteristic shape. Originally used by western classical archaeologists to mean the jars uncovered by excavation in Crete and Greece, it has now been taken into the American English language as a general word for a storage jar from any cultural horizon. [The word is to be found in "Webster's Third International Dictionary"]

Although the word is Greek, many of the pithoi if the ancient Mediterranean were not produced by persons on the Greek mainland; for example, they are known from Crete and the Levant in non-Hellenic contexts. Many "pithoi" were excavated in the Palace of Knossos and the ancient shipwreck of Uluburun. The Ancient Iberian culture of El Argar also used "pithoi" for burials in its B phase (1500-1300 BC).

The pithos is better known in its Latin form as the "fiscus" where the funds are stored. [But not everyone accepts this derivation. For example, if the qe-to of Linear B is pithos, then the origin is probably not from the root stated (Ventris and Chadwick note this problem in the second edition of "Documents in Mycenaean Greek"; look in the index under Pithos).] Anything could be placed in a pithos; however, they were used primarily for grains, seeds, wine, and oil. They were commonly associated with administrative and trade centers, which shipped, kept or received large quantities.

Pithoi were almost universally of ceramic, an ideal material that kept out water, dirt, insects and rodents. Most were as tall or taller than a human being. The base was flat so that they could be placed in rows in a storage magazine or lined up along any convenient hallway or walkway, or even on the stairs. Lugs or more rarely the more breakable handles were located on the upper sides for ease in handling. Some pithoi were set into holes in the floor. They were handled with ropes. Some vases display raised decorative ropes.

The utility of a pithos for storage unfortunately was all too easily turned to the advantage of an enemy, who had only to knock over a pithos full of oil and touch a torch to it to produce a major conflagration. Most of the palaces of the Bronze Age Aegean were burned at one time or another in just this way.

On a more positive note, the extensive surface area of a "pithos" was a tempting field for decoration. For example, pithoi recovered at Knossos exhibit simulated rope designs. [ [http://letmespeaktothedriver.com/site/10854/knossos.html#fieldnotes C. Michael Hogan, "Knossos fieldnotes", Modern Antiquarian (2007)] ] The best decor was reserved for table and service ware, but most "pithoi" have some kind of pattern or scene, most often raised and arrayed in bands around the jar.

Like the ceramic bathtubs of some periods, the size of a "pithos" made it a most convenient coffin, especially where wood was in short supply. There is evidence of Middle Helladic burials in Mycenae and Crete where the bones of the interred have been placed in "pithoi".

ee also

*Bridge spouted vessel


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  • pithos — ● pithos, pithoi ou pithos nom masculin (grec pithos) Grande jarre à fond plat qui, dans l Antiquité, servait au stockage des denrées et qui était souvent enfouie dans le sol. ● pithos, pithoi ou pithos (synonymes) nom masculin (grec pithos)… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Pithos — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Pithos, del griego πίθος (el plural es Pithoi πίθοι), es una tinaja grande de forma ovoidal y panzuda que se utilizaba para conservar virtualmente cualquier cosa pero, sobre todo, cereales y aceite. Fabricados la… …   Wikipedia Español

  • pithos — PÍTHOS s.n. Vas mare de lut de dimensiunile unui butoi, în care se păstrau lichide sau grâne. [< gr. pithos]. Trimis de LauraGellner, 25.07.2005. Sursa: DN  PÍTHOS s. n. vas mare de lut de dimensiunile unui butoi, în care se păstrau lichide… …   Dicționar Român

  • Pithos — (griech.), großes Tongefäß der alten Griechen, bis zu 2 m hoch und entsprechend weit, für Flüssigkeiten. Unter dem Faß der Danaiden und des Diogenes ist ein P. zu verstehen …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Pithos — Pithos, großes altgriech. tönernes Vorratsgefäß …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • PITHOS — vicus in tribu Cecropide, ἀπὸ τῶ πίθων, a vasis seu doliis quae illic fiunt. Steph …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Pithos — Un pithos de 675 av.J. C. environ, provenant de Crète. Musée du Louvre. Un pithos est une profonde jarre d origine grecque, ayant une faible base. Le pithos est utilisé pour stocker des denrées agricoles non périssables comme des céréales et des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Pithos — Kretischer Pithos mit Schnurösen, 15. Jh. v. Chr., Knossos Der Pithos (altgriechisch: πίθος [f.] píthos = „großer, irdener Vorratskrug“ für bspw. Wein, Öl oder Getreide – plural: πίθοι píthoi – Pithoi) ist ein großes (bis zu mannshohes) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • pithos — /pith os, puy thos/, n., pl. pithoi /pith oy, puy thoy/. a very large earthenware jar having a wide mouth, used by the ancient Greeks for storing liquids, as wine, or for holding food, as grain, or for the burial of the dead. [1875 80; < Gk… …   Universalium

  • Pithos — Pi|thos der; , ...then <aus gr. píthos »Gefäß, Krug, Fass«> großes, tönernes Vorratsgefäß im Altertum, das auch für Bestattungen verwendet wurde …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

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