Instrument whose origins go back to earliest antiquity. Consists of a vessel made of marble, agate, porcelain, bronze, cast iron, or glass, in which a variety of substances are ground into powder with a pestle.
The first mortars were made of stone; later, metals were used, especially bronze. The shape of the vessel varied according to the place of origin and the period. The exterior often carried religious sayings, maxims, or other ornamental elements, sometimes with the names, monograms, and coats of arms of the makers or owners.
A fixture of chemical laboratories and pharmacies, the mortar served to prepare medicinal compounds and substances.