The Alabaster of the ancients was the stalagmitic variety of carbonate of lime, and differed from what now is commonly known as Alabaster, which is sulphate of lime. From this material vases were made to hold unguents (see Matt. xxvi. 7; Mark, xiv. 3; Luke, vii. 37). Gradually the vases themselves were called Alabasters; and this is the explanation of the Septuagint translation, alabastron, in II(IV) Kings, xxi. 13. Alabaster is still obtained from mines in the province of Oran in Algeria; it was found also in Thebes and on the western side of the Tigris. In Assyria it was used in bas-relief and was called pilu, though this term was a general one applied to various kinds of hard stones. Its employment can be traced back beyond the ninth century B.C.; and it may be assumed that even at an earlier period there was trade in Alabaster in Babylonia, since the mineral is not found in southern Mesopotamia. It was usually grayish and striated in appearance.

G. B. L.
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