This bowl is a masterpiece of the C-Group potter’s art

The fine incised decoration of this bowl makes it an exceptional example of C-Group pottery. Although stylized, the representations of cattle on the bowl reveal keen observation of anatomy and behavior—horns have distinctive individual shapes, hide patterns vary, and tails switch against the following animal.

In addition to incised details, the bodies of the cattle were emphasized by burnishing. The background of dots was made by rocking the edge of a flat notched stone against the clay, a technique used since Neolithic times. The zigzag pattern decorating the exterior of the rim probably imitates leather laces.

The bowl is an illustration of the importance of cattle in the C-Group.With roots in the Neolithic period, ancient and more recent cattle cultures of sub-Saharan Africa not only relied on their herds for many of life’s necessities, but also imbued cattle with religious and social importance that placed them at the center of their lives.

Bowl with Incised Herd of Cattle
C-Group IIa (1900–1750 BC)
OIM 23452