… an earthenware fattening jar …

dormouse ashmolean

Obviously the star exhibit at the Last Supper in Pompeii show currently at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford is the glirarium or dormouse jar. (Glires is Latin for dormouse.) This large, lidded terracotta jar mimics the hibernation nest, perfect for fattening the little beasts. It is complete with a lid and air holes; and has a spiral ledge running around on the inside for the dormouse to move about, grazing on the acorns and chestnuts provided. The fatter the roasted dormouse, the more highly esteemed the banquet apparently.

The thoughtful curators at the Ashmolean had completed the glirarium display with a soft toy. After staring at the dormouse and its earthenware prison for a moment, I realised what it reminded me of …

alice in wonderland

… and now I am wondering whether Lewis Carroll’s dormouse in the teapot scene echoes the Oxford writer’s Victorian classical education which possibly included mention of a glirarium …


Terracotta dormouse jar, Bay of Naples, AD 1-79, is on loan from the National Archaelogical Museum of Naples.

Alice in Wonderland illustration by John Tenniel.

The Last Supper in Pompeii show at the Ashmolean, Oxford runs until 12 January 2020 and is well worth a visit. Usual opening times for the Ashmolean are 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, and Bank Holidays. For further details about the museum and the exhibition, follow the link here to their own website.