Tag Archives: cups

A New Vösendorf Cup

In October, I made a Vösendorf cup – later discovering that I had failed to make it accurately. Using the diagram by K. Rebay-Salisbury, in an article about feeding strategy in prehistoric Europe:

… this week, I made a replacement cup, which I hope to get out of bisque in time for the student show at the pottery studio I go to:

I am feeling good about this one. It’s better than the previous one in every way.

A Detour to Kalenderberg

I’m not just interested in sippy cups. The pottery from this era and region has many wonderful features (including a variety of large vessels with multiple bull’s head spouts), and the cups found in excavations range from primitive vessels to elegant ware with distinctive curves and handles, and some with elaborate incised or pressed decorations.

A large number of such wares were found in Kalenderberg Group graves (eastern Hallstatt Culture, early Iron Age). Let’s take a look at some cups, comprising two general styles, Kalenderberg and Pseudo-Kalenderberg, described by Roberto Tarpini (translation here thanks to Google Translate):

“Roughly simplified, the typical decorations of the “classic calendar mountain ornament” are garland or angular notched strips and small knobs as fillings, which in turn are implemented in the “pseudo calendar mountain ornament” in the form of fluting and impressions (Fig. 6).”

Der Topf im Grab: Überlegungen zur Beigabe von Ritualkeramik in Bestattungen des Osthallstattraums. In: P.C. Ramsl, K. Rebay-Salisbury & P. Trebsche (eds.) Schichtengeschichten. Festschrift für Otto H. Urban. Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie. Bonn: Habelt.  328: 441– 457 

Admittedly, surface decoration is not a major focus of mine. I am more interested in forms. Here is Figure 6, mentioned above:

What on earth is going on at the bottom right? All these perfect normal – and extensively decorated cups – and then … Leggy Cup. So of course this one went on my list. My priority was getting a stable cup with such long legs and such small feet. I chickened out a bit on the feet, making them broader than the original and lightly connected at the heels. I also kept the general form of the cup a bit more compact. And I feel good about the result. In fact, this cup brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

My earthenware adaptation of the Pseudo-Kalenderberg cup with
tall legs, an Eastern Hallstatt Culture cup dated to the early Iron Age.
This was bisque fired and will not be glazed.

This takes me to the end of my class this fall. I have a few pieces to repeat, refining their shapes to get closer to extant originals, and I’ll be working toward more period production techniques. There are also some larger forms I’m interested in working on. See you next year!

Vösendorf: the Cup That Made Me Fall in Love

Without a doubt, the most charming cups among the Hallstatt feeding cups for children are the Vösendorf cups held at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Small feeding vessels found in a burial site in Vösendorf, Austria, dated to c 1300 to 800 BCE.

Several years ago, I attempted a vessel based on these, and it was just terrible. Also, it was very unstable, and at some point after it was bisqued, it fell over, and its head broke off.

This year, I finally felt ready to go back to this shape and do it better.

My earthenware copy of a Vösendorf burial cup. Shown here in its
greenware state, this was later bisque fired and will not be glazed.

I felt pretty good about this one. The feet seemed a little clunky, but I think I had the general idea. It really looked like the example on the far right had a little bunny tail, and I leaned into that. No spout, but I figured for something so whimsical, it was likely ceremonial.

Of course, well after it was bisqued, I discovered this one should have had a spout. (You may be thinking, “I don’t think I’d want to drink out of that end, even figuratively.” But it’s probably easier to get a grip on the horns, the udder/teats on a live animal are back in that general direction, you don’t want to put your eye out, and would you really want to drink out of front end, for that matter? Back to the article this illustration comes from: it also had a photo showing a [20th Century] mom feeding a baby right from a goat’s udder.)

Photographs and line drawings, showing interior space, for the second Vösendorf cup from the left, judging by that lean in the left leg. Wonderful illustration by Rebay-Salisbury.

So, yeah, I’ll definitely be remaking this one.

A Ruminant Head … and Paws?

There is a little cup from Znojmo, now Czechia, that doesn’t have the spout but has an animal head with little horns and 4 legs with very small nubbin feet that look a bit bigger than hooves but not clearly human feet, as with some other finds from this period. It was found in a settlement context, and is one of the cups listed in Table 1 of Dunne et al. Compare a similar era cup from a burial site a couple hundred miles to the south – far more literal, identifiable cattle features with definite hooves. But, as great a find as it is, let’s face it, not as cute as the cup on the left.

This is such a sweet little round animal shape, and the “paws” really get me.

I admit, I’ve been shying away from the abrupt, tall, upright mouths on top of some of these cups, modeling my adaptations to show a smoother transition from the cup to mouth.

With this one, I broke my own rule about picking up pieces from the pottery studio (wrap in at least one layer of paper and place in a box or bag with handles) and carried my copy out to the car in my stupid butterfingery hands. As I stepped out of the front door, I dropped it, and it broke in half + its horns broke off. Whoops. Oh well. Now it’s glued together like a real archaeological find. I will probably revisit this one, and make its proportions reflect the almost hippo-like spacing of the original’s legs.

My earthenware copy of the Znojmo cup. This was
bisque fired and will not be glazed.

Starting Simple

These small spouted cups are documented in Rebay-Salisbury et al. The one on the left is one of the cups documented in Dunne et al. as having contained ruminant milk. It was found in Grave 80 (of a child under age 6) of the Dietfurt-Tennisplatz site, dated to c 800 to 600 BCE. On the right is a cup found in a settlement context, in Regensburg-Harting, dated to c 1200 to 800 BCE. It is described as “contaminated, low level of lipids.” Both the originals reside in the Historisches Museum Regensburg.

The Dietfurt cup is completely round from the top, but I ended up making it in an oval shape. I ended up making the Regensburg-Harting cup in a slightly fatter, spherical shape (it is described as “lemon shaped”), with 3 feet. I couldn’t tell from the photo whether it had 3 or 4, and I go back and forth on whether I screwed up. Still, these little cuties crack me up with their exaggerated duck faces.

I did a little burnishing on these, just to smooth out the surfaces a bit. Both were started as pinch pots, which I think is the most likely technique for making cups of this size (easy to work in the palm of one’s hand). I made the straws by rolling some clay and, after it set up, using a coring tool to take out the middle. This could have been done with a thick needle or wire, especially with such a short straw.

My adaptations of the Bronze Age Dietfurt and Regensburg-Harting cups, made using a pinch-pot technique and coring tool for the straws. Show here in their greenware state, these are made using Standard 104 earthenware and were bisque fired and not glazed.