These ceremonial vessels are very widespread
and yet rarely published. When they do appear, typically it is with little or no background.
This is what information I have currently,
with broad estimates on dating.

from Fundort Sipplengen, Bodensee, Switzerland

Comparison of two breasted duck-pots.
At left, from Körös, Hungary, 6th millennium bce.
At right, modern Mapuche metawe, Chile,

Another Nupe breasted waterpot stand, Nigeria


Female libation vessel with pointed breast spouts. No site given, southern Aegean, probably 2nd millennium bce.

Back to poster



More details about the breastpots

Tennessee: These pots with breasts going around the circumference are found in many countries. Another Tennessee pot has breasts only, no head. No location given and no photo available, circa 1000-1500 CE.

Crete: Probably neolithic, but possibly from the Temple period. This style is also found in the Tripilye-Cucuteni culture in Ukraine/Romania.

Another smooth painted vessel with breasts facing out along circumference, this one from western Iran. Neolithic, or early bronze age.

This one closely resembles the Iranian pot, but the patterns are incised rather than painted. Jomon period, circa 3000-1500 BCE

Philippines: Funerary offering from a cave in Mindoro, date not given.

Numerous examples of breastpots exist from Lausitz/Lusatia, in eastern Germany. Circa 1500 BCE.

A great variation in kinds of breastpots is seen in Peru: the fourfold outward-facing one shown; breast tripods; and multiple breasts all over the vessel surface (at Tembladera). No date or location given.

This is the long-necked breasted bird vessel wedged between 2 rows, its beak a pouring spout. Several examples of this style exist, some fatter, in the Aegean islands, circa 1600 BCE.

Another incised-pattern four-breasted pot from the Terramare or Terramara culture, Po Valley of northern Italy, 1700-1100 bce

From Si Wa, Gansu, circa 3000 bce. One of many breast tripods from late Yangshao period, prototypes for later bronze offering vessels called Li (with elongated legs that no longer look like nipples).

Another breast tripod, with incised spirals and dots. Pre-conquest, no date or location given.

El Salvador:
Red-glazed and patterned breast-legged vessel. In Guatemala too, they tend not to be tripods, as with a four legged pot at Kaminaljuyú. No date or site given.

Breast tripods are found in western Mexico, some with long plump breasts and others flatter and wider, like this one from Chupícuaro, circa 500 bce to 100 ce.

Czech Republic:
A vessel adorned with nipples connected by spiral patterns, from the Otomanská culture. Neolithic, pre-3000 bce.

Caddoan pot in a very similar style, a good example of how totally unrelated cultures in different time periods come up with the same ideas. Pre-conquest, sometime after 800 CE.

Inbulom, or "soul pot." Modern, ethnic group and locaton unknown.

Breasted vessels are common in Nigeria; this one is an oil-lamp. Other Yoruba vessels are in the form of women with prominent breasts, sometimes nursing a child; others contain sacred river water and pebbles. 20th century.

In northern Nigeria, women placed full waterpots on these breasted stands. Not pots strictly speaking, but very close. 20th century.

Neolithic villagers made these pots, some of them incised with dotted patterns of flowing milk (see graphic at left top). Clay reliefs in the form of spotted breasts were discovered where they fell from the the walls.

Another kind of breast-vessels belongs to an ancient Aegean style of very pointed breasts, often seen on female figurines or effigy vessels whose breasts are pierced to allow libations to flow through. Circa 2nd mil bce.

The breasted bird pot (see Thera, above) reappears in the Diaguitas culture, Chile/Argentina, here white-painted with red and black, 700-1500 CE. Mapuche descendants have kept this theme going in metawe vessels on the altars of present-day machi (medicine women).

Costa Rica: Another breast-tripod from Central America, no date or location given. They are found over a vast area, from Peru up to Mexico.

One of a great many funerary vessels with breasted female handles from ancient Kish. From a burial mound described as "early dynastic" and "bronze age", so circa 3000-2500 bce.

Zulu: A carved wooden milk pail from South Africa, 20th century.