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Alabastrum

or Alabaster (ἀλάβαστρον, ἀλάβαστος). A small tapering or pear-shaped vessel, having no feet, used for holding perfumes and ointments. Such vessels were originally made of alabaster, of which the variety called onyx-alabaster was usually employed for this purpose. It is doubtful, however, whether the vessels were named from the material, or vice versa. They are also found of stone and terra-cotta, with a white or cream-colonred ground and black figures. The right-hand illustration shows an alabastrum from Chiusi, carved into female faces above, and having a hole in the crown for pouring out the ointment

Alabastrum. (British Museum.); Alabastrum. (Dennis,
Etruria
, i. p. cxxv.)

or perfume (Dennis, Etruria, i. p. cxxv.). Other materials were in use—as glass, and even gold (χρύσεια ἀλάβαστρα, Theocr. xv. 114). The alabastra usually had no handles, though we sometimes find specimens with them. They are first mentioned by Herodotus (iii. 20). Some of these vessels had a long narrow neck, which was sealed; so that when the woman in the Gospels is said to break the alabaster box of ointment, it appears probable that she only broke the extremity of the neck which was thus closed. (Cf. Becker-Göll, Gallus, ii. p. 378).

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