Harry Falk, Libation Trays from Gandhara

Flat lid with
Flat lid with "banquet scene." Courtesy of Aman ur Rahman.



The small trays from Gandhara that show mostly Nereides or party scenes artistically cut in schist stone have been known for more than a century and been the subject of deeper research since 1979. Their widely used label "toilet tray" goes back to F. Petrie and was disseminated by J. Marshall. Their pictorial program and their parallels in Roman Egypt rather point to a use for libations, which means rites including the spilling of liquids on the floor, as necessary in contemporary Mediterranian cultures for marriages, service to the dead, and hunting sprees, but mainly for symposia and other parties where the consummation of wine plays a major role. A first interpretation in this direction goes back to S. Kossak. The assembled evidence seems to elevate the "theory" of libation trays in Gandhara to a reality.