The terracotta canteen, also known as “pilgrim flask” – which is characterized by a round shape with a narrow profile, by a little neck and usually with grips, two to four – has a very long history.
The origin of this utilitarian object could be recognized in prototypes of Eastern production. During the Mesopotamian age, travel flasks with the shape that will endure for over 2000 years can already be found.
After becoming widespread also in the Western Mediterranean – between the 12th and the 9th centuries BC it was introduced in Sardinia, while in Eastern Sicily between the second half of the 8th century and the 6th century BC -, the pilgrim flask was used through almost every historical period, involving the whole Mediterranean world.
During the Roman period, types well known from archaeological finds were produced, mainly made by Italic, Hispanic, and the numerous variants of African “terra sigillata”.
During the 4th century AD Christian pilgrimages became widespread and with them the pilgrim flasks linked to the sanctuaries, among which the devotional ones of the martyrs Mena and Tecla in Egypt particularly stand out.
Since then the flasks did also become “souvenirs” – or reliquaries – to be brought home from the pilgrimage.
After the first half of the 15th century the pilgrim’s flask became a quite common type of aristocratic tableware. Real works of art were made using this shape, mainly used for the exposition on the kitchen sideboard in aristocratic houses.
The canteen proposed by Res Bellica, for its basic, unadorned shape without grips, could be considered a generic type comparable with the known models between the beginning of the Iron Age and the Imperial Roman period: the miniature flask of Poggio Sommavilla, the apulian flask from Taranto, the canteens from Adria and Izmir.