Askos goose-shaped askos and rowing puppets

Pertaining to a burial of a teenage girl, the objects represent a unicum, both in terms of typology and underlying ideology. The tomb (brick casket with flat roof), excavated in 1990 in Contrada Ciantro (Coop. Serena), dates back to the mid 3rd century BC. The burial, recovered by Benedetto Giovanni Roselli, a member of the Milazzo Archeoclub at the time, yielded numerous objects that must have accompanied the little deceased on her journey into the afterlife. Among these, in addition to the usual ones (an ointment jar and an ointment jar) or those related to the female world (two pins and a bone pyx) and to body care (a strigil), stand out some quite unique finds.

These are three model boats, one of which is clearly inspired by fantasy (a cock protome, an animal connected to the otherworldly world and sacred to Persephone). For the other two boat models, with more realistic features, it was thought that they might be toys or even offerings from a family member who exercised an activity in some way connected to the world of seafaring.

Of the five hand-moulded puppets, four are aniconic and have the characteristic pointed headgear, while the fifth has physiognomic features, possibly alluding to the deceased.

The trousseau included a goose-shaped askòs, which must have served as a flask to hold lamp oil, as suggested by the circular filter, provided with two holes on the side for suspension. Overall, therefore, it is a clear allusion to the afterlife journey that, according to belief, every deceased person had to make. The boat thus becomes the means to make the last journey, into the afterlife, not before having paid the obolus to Charon, helmsman of the Underworld, as suggested by the presence of two bronze coins. The finds are now housed in the Antiquarium Archeologico Domenico Ryolo (Room 9, Display Case 19).


For information here:

Gabriella Tigano (con il contributo di Laura Bonfiglio, Gabriella Mangano, Piero Coppolino), “L'Antiquarium archeologico di Milazzo. Guida all'esposizione.”, Messina, Sicania, 2011