MUSEUM PIECE: Amarna blue pottery with interesting detail

Amarna pots

                                                            Amarna Jar                                                                                                                     Amarna blue pottery

Above, are two brilliant examples of Amarna blue pottery, a distinctive form of storage vessel from just before, during and just after the Amarna period.

First I will talk about what exactly they are in terms of how they were made and function.

Most examples of Amarna blue pottery were made out of Nile fabric and the blue pigment came from cobalt aluminate (CoAl2O4, presumably from the Dakhleh oasis in the Western Desert. Generally speaking, the pottery decorations consist mainly of geometric lines and floral motifs. Floral motifs seem to imitate actual garlands, but the shape of the pots may have just leant itself to the decoration looking like garlands. However, actual garlands have been seen in tomb decoration wrapped around storage vessels (as seen below). We see this in a party or festival scene in the Tomb of Nebamun and perhaps this form of decoration on the Amarna blue pots was to replicate this. It has also been suggested that the frequency of lotus flower decoration may be because those vessels used for wine, the wine may have been infused with lotus. Perhaps these type of vessels were used for parties or festivals.

Amarna pots

amarna pot

                                                                  Floral motif                                                                                                                      Fauna motif

However, the second of the complete pots I am talking about in this post has two eyes of Horus, which suggests either a link to royalty or to the funerary cult, so would they have been for storage? It is interesting that the two pots I am discussing in this article both have elements which are linked to the religious principles of ancient Egypt. Let’s not forget though that during the Amarna period, the time when the capital of Egypt was based in Middle Egypt at Amarna, the “old gods” were not venerated. Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) had all but abolished the 3000 year old pantheon of gods to raise up the cult of the Aten (the sun god). The original vessels in this post were both discovered at Amarna, the city of the Aten, so why then does the first have a carving of the cow goddess Hathor whilst the second has two Horus eyes painted on. It is not unusual to find artefacts linked to the older pantheon at Amarna, private religion does not always match that of public religion and it is apparent that the inhabitants of Amarna may not have desired to change their religion. These are really beautiful pots and I would imagine they belonged to a wealthier inhabitant. There is no specific provenance as to the area of the city it was discovered, so I can’t narrow it down to a household or type of household, or whether perhaps they were for funerary purposes. It has conversely been asserted that primarily Amarna blue pottery was made in royal residences or palaces by select and skilled craftsmen. The poorer classes would have had similar but the vessels were made of poorer materials and the decoration would be poor quality. I think the decoration is lovely, in my opinion, but a look in to the actual material could help ascertain who would have owned one of these pots. I would find it odd that one of these pots belonged to a royal, because of the iconography discussed previously. It would also be interesting if we knew if any remnants or residues were left behind inside which could be further investigated.

All the best,

Ankh nfr

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