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(Phallic) Spout | by A.Davey
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(Phallic) Spout

This is an example of a figural spout found on Axumite ceramic vessels. An intact example appears below. Spouts of this type feature a female head with a distinctive hairstyle or head covering that conforms tightly to the skull until it flares outward at a ninety-degree angle at a point between the cheekbones and the chin.


I'm tempted to say vessels of this type were votive goods associated with a goddess cult, which if correct, might date them to a time before the Axumite King Ezana converted to Christianity in the third century.


I also see possible phallic imagery in these spouts. Envision the jar turned so the face is looking away from you, and what have you got? Well, I'm no Joseph Campbell, so I will leave the reconstruction of Axumite spiritual beliefs to others.


The Axumite Kingdom evolved from a city-state to a regional power between the second century before the current era and the second century of the current era.


At its peak between the third and sixth centuries of the current era, Axum controlled inter-regional and Red Sea trade. Axum is believed to have traded widely, with contacts in Byzantium, Alexandria and southern Europe.


Axum began to decline in the seventh century with the spread of Islam, which severed the trade routes that had been Axum's economic lifeblood.


A remnant of the Axum Kingdom persisted in the Blue Nile region until a rebellion finished it off in the tenth century.


In the collection of the National Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Taken without flash.


I've complied with restrictions on the use of flash, and taken photos only when permitted by the museum.


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Taken on October 22, 2007