Daily Life in Ancient Greece

Water jar (hydria) with women at the fountain, about 520 BC, Priam Painter

Offering rare glimpses of marriage and death, infancy and old age—and many of the intimate details in between—a new gallery dedicated to Daily Life in Ancient Greece at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is designed to encourage visitors to make immediate connections with an ancient culture. A group of 250 recently conserved objects present an engaging visual introduction to the complexities of  life for ancient Greeks. Made from ceramic, stone and bronze, they include household items, trade tools and images of everyday scenes on various painted vessels—providing insight into who the ancient Greeks were and how they lived.

Water jar (hydria) with women at the fountain, about 520 BC, Priam Painter

Exploring the society’s gender roles, several cases present objects associated with women, children and family, including woolworking tools, cosmetic and perfume jars, mirrors and children’s toys, as well as depictions of marriage rituals and everyday tasks like cooking and fetching water. The theme of masculinity, meanwhile, is illustrated through artworks that represent the world of the warrior, athletic competition and the origins of the Olympic Games. Other topics highlighted in the gallery include funerary traditions and commerce, with tools from centuries-old professions—such as farming, medicine, fishing, shoemaking and butchery—reinforcing connections between ancient traditions and modern life.

Over the last 18 months, all 250 objects in the gallery—many of which hadn’t been conserved in over 100 years—have been evaluated, studied and treated by MFA conservators. This has provided the MFA with the unique opportunity to revisit one of the Museum’s most important collections, updating knowledge about objects that are over 2,000 years old, and analyzing and conserving them using modern techniques before they are put on view.