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Aryballos in the form of three cockle shells, 6th century BC (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

An aryballos (Greek: ἀρύβαλλος; plural aryballoi) was a small spherical or globular flask with a narrow neck used in Ancient Greece.[1][2] It was used to contain perfume or oil, and is often depicted in vase paintings being used by athletes during bathing. In these depictions, the vessel is at times attached by a strap to the athlete's wrist, or hung by a strap from a peg on the wall.

The shape of the aryballos originally came from the oinochoe of the Geometric period of the 9th century BCE, a globe-shaped wine jar. By the Proto-Corinthian period of the following century, it had attained its definitive shape, going from spherical to ovoid to conical, and finally back to spherical. This definitive form has a wide, flat mouth, and a single small handle. Some later variations have bell-shaped mouths, a second handle, and/or a flat base. Potters also created inventive shapes for aryballoi.


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Advanced documentation methods in studying Corinthian black-figure vase painting on YouTube showing a Computed Tomography scan and rollout of the aryballos No. G26, archaeological collection, Graz University. The video was rendered using the GigaMesh Software Framework, cf. doi:10.11588/heidok.00025189.


  1. ^ "aryballos" in The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 15th edn., 1992, Vol. 1, p. 611.
  2. ^ Shanks, Michael (1999). Art and the Greek City State. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 50–52. ISBN 0 521 56117 5.
  3. ^ From the workshop of the Douris Painter. On the back two kalós love-inscriptions declare that Thodis and Chairippos are handsome. Exhibited in Room 8 of the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum (Athens).