Balsamarium in Form eines Frauenkopfes

Archäologische Staatssammlung München


The balsamarium with lead glazing in the shape of a female head. It is part of the tomb inventory of an adult, which also includes two further figurative balsamaria, in the shape of a monkey and of a lion, as well as two small jugs decorated with reliefs and lead glazing. Apart from these three balsamaria that were completely preserved there are only very few fragments of figurative balsamaria or of jugs decorated with reliefs from the burial ground of the Roman city of Cambodunum (Kempten) with over 400 tombs. Most balsamaria were made of glass and balsamaria in the shape of a flask served as containers for oil for anointing and pastes. The fragrant liquids were much-appreciated luxury items for personal care. They also distinguished themselves by means of their packaging, such as the small figurative containers with the waterproof lead glazing. In the case of the Kempten balsamaria we have to do – as in the case of the two jugs with relief decoration – with products of central-Gallic potteries from today’s region of Auvergne. Only few such imports arrived in the Roman provinces of Raetia and Noricum. The fragrant essences were used before or during cremation, a Mediterranean custom that had been adopted in the provinces during the Roman period to counteract bad smells. Since the vessel was burnt as well on the funerary pyre, today only few remains of the molten lead glazing are left.


Archäologische Staatssammlung München

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