Etruscan Vases Shapes and Uses

Etruscan Vases

The various shapes ond the use of the Etruscan vases.

Illustrations Elena Mignani  || Graphics and Layout Livia Mignani


The Etruscans used to have a particular passion for the Greek ceramic art.  The commercial exchanges in the Mediterranean favored the importation in Etruria of lots of ceramics, most common were the Attic and Corinth styles that used to be part of the funeral ornaments.  The Greek Attic style was more considered by the Etruscan manufacturers and becomes quite normal even in the Etruscan terminology to call this way.  There are different shapes for the vases and each one was designed by the Etruscans in correspondence to the use the vase would have had.

Here below the most common shapes.

Etruscan Corner Infographic Etruscan Vases Shapes and Uses
Etruscan Vase Amphora Shape

Amphora Shape

The most used was the Amphora; commonly utilized for the transportation of wine, oil, honey and corn seed, they were used to preserve food marinated or in brine. Another utilization was the collection of water from wells and the use of Amphorae for elections. A significant production of this vases for the transportation of wine in the Mediterranean took place at Vulci during the seventh century BC. Amongst the various types of Amphorae there are different styles which are the Panathenaic, Tyrrhenian, and Pelike styles.

Etruscan Vase Krater Shape

Krater Shape

The Krater is a large vase that had an incredible capacity; it was usually utilized for wine and water during the banquettes. Also in this case there different types; they are the Column (kelébe), the Volute, the Bell and the Calyx Kraters. They all differ in the way handles and their shapes are designed.

Etruscan Vase Kyathos Shape

Kyathos Shape

The Kyathos is a type of  large dipper with a long looping handle and was used to take wine from the Kraters.

Etruscan Vase Pyxis Shape

Pyxis Shape

The Pyixis is a little cylindrical box made out of ceramic with a lid and has usually a diameter of ten centimeters. The decorations around them recall the daily routines of the women at that time. Sometime, during archeologist excavations, inside these vases were found ancient cosmetic.

Etruscan Vase Kylix Shape

Kylix Shape

The Kylix is an Attic wine-drinking cup made with ceramic and commonly used during banquettes. It was the most used cup to drink wine until the Kantharos (a type of calyx) took the lead amongst the Etruscans.

Etruscan Vase Oinochoe Shape

Oinochoe Shape

The Oinochoe is a jug used for water or wine and can be utilized also to take liquids from Kraters.  There are types in metal or terra-cotta; this vase was present during different periods such as the Geometric, the Orientalized, the black shapes and red shapes phases.

Etruscan Vase Lekythos Shape

Lekythos Shape

The Lèkythos is a type of vase coming from Athens in the twelfth century BC and often used by the Greeks. Later on between the fifth and third century BC the Etruscan begin to adopt this vase to preserve perfume oils or balms. The particular shape this vase has permitted its production in different materials as marble or alabaster. It was adopted usually for domestic chores, athletes’ needs or burials.

Etruscan Vase Hydria Shape

Hydria Shape

Hydria is a vase invented appositively to pour water as the name indicates, and can contain a lot of it. It looks like an amphora but it has a third long handle aside created to help pour water.

Etruscan Vase Canopic Jar Shape

Canopic Jar Shape

The Canopic Jars are vases used already by the Egyptians. The Etruscans used them as well to preserve the ashes of the dead, It is usually characterized by a lid that has a human head-shape recalling the face of the deceased. It was mostly produced at Chiusi.

Etruscan Vase Askos Shape

Askos Shape

The Askos was a vase created to pour little quantities of liquids especially oils for lamps. Its shape looks like a flat and large cylinder with a cylindrical protuberance where the liquids would be pour from. A long and curved handle is on top of it to use the Askos. Sometime the protuberance is made like a animal or with human shapes.