The hidden stars of RAMM’s collection

There are always objects in a museum’s collection that stand out to visitors – maybe because they are especially shiny, or unusually small or big, or because they are associated with a famous place or person. One of the most popular items in RAMM’s Greek collection is this Corinthian helmet, a type of armour worn by a hoplite soldier. Ours is particularly well-preserved, and is a very powerful, evocative item that draws visitors to it.

Corinthian helmet

Corinthian helmet

But museums hold much more in their collections beyond the ‘star’ items – there are so many artefacts that are worth spending a bit of time getting to know; the more you find out, the more intriguing they become. Two such objects in RAMM’s collection were revealed to me during my time at the British Museum. They are both ceramic objects, a type of Cypriot pottery called Red Polished ware.

The first is this bird-shaped vessel. I’ve always liked it – the way it stands stubbornly on its little legs, and the look on its face. But it seems it is rather a special bird – we’ve not been able to find anything comparable. Does anyone know of anything similar?

Red Polished ware bird vessel

Red Polished ware bird vessel

The second item is more enigmatic – essentially a ‘bar’ of pottery, decorated on both sides with three holes pierced through it. Our records suggested it was a balance beam used for weighing, but this just did not seem correct. Luckily it isn’t only me who doesn’t know what it was used for! Staff at the British Museum say it’s a type of object whose original function is unknown, but may have been worn around the chest or waist to hold bands of jewellery across the body.

Red Polished ware ceramic bar

Red Polished ware ceramic bar

As the RAMM Leventis project progresses we are finding out much more about our collections, but there is still so much to discover!



  1. You are right, so easy to be in awe of the Corinthian helmet, but really nice to learn about things you might not automatically NBC drawn to.

  2. James Lloyd · · Reply

    Hi, there are quite a few comparable pieces of pottery in the shape of birds, the most elaborate ones that I can think of being Getty 83.AE.203 and 78.AE.280a-b, dated around the mid./ late 4th C. BC. There are more similar looking vessels in the Kerameikos Museum, but they do not have a handle, and are painted geometrically; I remember seeing similar vessels elsewhere but off the top of my head these are all that I can remember… hopefully this is helpful!

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