Otago Museum adds wine jar to collection

University of Otago Prof Robert Hannah takes a close look an ancient wine jar at the Otago Museum. Photo by Craig Baxter.
University of Otago Prof Robert Hannah takes a close look an ancient wine jar at the Otago Museum. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Lovers of somewhat mysterious phrases please take note - the Otago Museum has just taken delivery of its second ''Gnathian oinochoe''.

Prof Robert Hannah, the honorary curator of the museum's classics collection, explained this week that an oinochoe was a Grecian wine jar.

The wine jar the museum had just bought was about 2300 years old and was an example of ''Gnathian pottery'', from a place in South Italy called Gnathia, where it was first found.

The jar was bought for about $1260, through an Otago Museum trust fund, the Fairweather Collection Fund, and came from an Auckland dealer, Antiquarius.

Prof Hannah, of the University of Otago classics department, said the museum already had an ''excellent collection'' of ancient Greek pottery.

This is the first item to be bought for the museum's classical collection for the past 30 years.

The jar was in fine condition and when he had seen it for the first time on Thursday, he had felt a sense of awe because of the close connection it embodied with people who had lived about 2300 years ago.

Much of the Otago Museum's collection of Greek pottery had been bought in 1948 through a bequest from Willi Fels, a Dunedin businessman whose donations and bequests benefited the museum, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the then Otago Early Settlers Museum.

The latest wine jar had been bought to further enhance one of the areas of strength of the museum's internationally-respected classical collection.

The museum already had a number of pieces of this particular ware from Southern Italy.

It was made about 300 BC by a Greek potter working in or near ancient Taras (modern Taranto) in southern Italy, near the heel of the ''boot'' of Italy.

Taras was founded by Greek colonists about 700 BC.

The jar's excellent state of preservation suggested it had been buried in a tomb, as a gift for the deceased.

Such burial gifts ''often took the form of vessels used in daily life for eating and drinking,'' he said.

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