Posts Tagged With: egyptology

Giving potsherds back some importance!

Seemingly discarded in earlier excavations and even now mostly overlooked, potsherds (see fig.1) aren’t always considered the most valuable artefact for ascertaining information. Most Egyptologists (and archaeologists worldwide) look only for diagnostic sherds; this is to say, pieces that are large enough to highlight their former part of the pot, such as a rim, handle or large parts of curved sides. Unless expert in pottery remains, Egyptologists have very little time for pottery, especially when usually faced with such a huge and overwhelming corpus within any given assemblage. Whole pots are a dream to find (see fig.2), whether in situ and complete or fragmented yet representing a whole pot for reconstruction (See fig.3).  I think this comes down to the need of the Egyptologist to “see the whole picture”. As an Egyptologist myself, I appreciate that it can be time consuming working with potsherds, and often at times, hard to know where to even begin with research and analysis!

Sherds are scattered across many sites from ancient Egypt (urban, religious and mortuary), and due to the sheer size of a corpus, they can be left untouched, or even returned back to where they were found after macroscopic and diagnostic examination. However, sherds are important! They have a story to tell and their very presence can say a lot! You can analyse the amount and spatial distribution, they can inform on production, use and re-use.  The context they are found in can hint at individual, family or communal acts (the agents), whether their deposition was the result of a single action or repeated action and whether they are found in a random or fixed location (all of this enables the study of social relationships within communities). Sherds may present with organic residues or interesting inclusions, not to mention the ability to demonstrate foreign trade. The study of sherds is inexhaustible.

We can also discern technology and production methods, raw materials and access to them. We can begin to build a picture of social requirement, use and production by the context they are discovered. For example we can discover whether the pottery was wheel made or handmade, professionally or home-made, factory or estate, home or institution.

pot1

 

Fig.1 Sherd (Photograph taken from the Petrie Museum Website)

pot2

 

 

Fig.2 (Photograph taken from the Petrie Museum Website)

This is a rather fine example of a Naqada II vessel, with geometric design, typical of the period and faunal designs. This pot gives a huge amount of information, such as local fauna (or fauna known to the creator) production, techniques, use etc. You can’t blame an Egyptologist for wanting to study this! And for a full understanding of Egyptian pottery, it is important to study both complete pottery as well as sherds.

pot3

Fig 3. (Photograph taken from the Petrie Museum Website)

Sherds which fit together to form a pot are also useful finds. Ethnographic research and experimental research allows for an understanding of deposition. For example, this pot was probably abandoned whole, but the crushing sands have broken it, rather than this was broken and/or smashed. If it was smashed, the sherds would be considerably smaller and the edges of the breaks sharper. This is from Amarna, a known abandoned desert site. Further research could also be done on the pattern, as this pattern is widely unknown from Amarna. Then again, it was discovered in a box marked ‘Amarna’, the provenance may be inaccurate and we are looking at something from a different period or site. Provenance is very important both as a region, time period, and even more locally, the narrower you can make it the more meaning and context it has.

Ankh_Nfr

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MUSEUM PIECE: Ba bird? Or Nekhbet?

I decided this would just be a quick look at this quirky little Old Kingdom amulet, but as with most things, I managed to uncover more questions than answers!

I decided this was an interesting piece, as there seems to be a great amount of facial detail. I particularly loved the bulbous nose and chin. It looked a bit like a grumpy old man!

amarna potBritish Museum

So, this is a blue lapis lazuli amulet. It has the hybrid form of a vultures body and a human head. I personally had never seen anything quite like this, but I will admit it’s not my specialist area, more of a curiosity. So I began thinking, is it an amulet to represent the Ba bird? The character or uniqueness of someone, the aspect of a person the ancient Egyptians believed would live on after death. It certainly has character in the face! The Ba was represented as half human half bird, and would take flight from the tomb to re-join the Ka (soul). However, when I looked at other amulets that represented the Ba I was met with pictures of hybrid forms that seemed to take on more of a falcon like body, or alternatively the wings were outstretched (see below). While I am not ruling this out, I would need more evidence (and more time to research) to find out the answers.

Other examples of Ba amulets and figurines seem to have a more falcon like body, whereas on this amulet you can clearly see the back wings hunched over like a vulture.

Ba-bird, 6-4th century B.C. EgyptianEgyptian Ba statue

amarna potAmulet representing Ba bird

Perhaps instead, the amulet symbolised Nekhbet the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt, however, she isn’t usually portrayed as a hybrid, instead she retains her vulture face as well as body. Her wings are almost always out in a protective way. I wonder if I could see the amulet face on whether there would be more to tell.

I will keep searching and researching on this one, but in the meantime if you have more information on this amulet or a similar piece, then please do get in contact and share!

Best wishes,

Ankh Nfr

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Amarna Big Give 2012

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Here are the details of the fundraiser as stated by The Amarna Project on their facebook page:

“THE BIG GIVE CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE – SAVING THE GREAT ATEN TEMPLE AT AMARNA

We are delighted to announce that the Amarna Trust has been accepted into the Big Give 2012 Christmas Challenge, with a project to raise urgently needed funds for the conservation of the Great Aten Temple:

http://new.thebiggive.org.uk/project/greatatentemple

The Big Give Christmas Challenge is an annual matched-funding event in which online donations from the public are matched with pledges from major Trust supporters and funding from external philanthropic bodies (‘Charity Champions’).

The Challenge has two phases. Phase I requires us to collect pledges from our major supporters. Phase II is a period of online donation, beginning December 6th. During this time, online donations are matched with money drawn from pledges and Charity Champion Funds, until these are exhausted. An online donation of £5- becomes £10-; a £50 donation becomes £100, and so on.

If you are thinking of offering support to the Amarna Trust in what remains of 2012, please consider making a donation during the December online donation phase. It is a chance to make your donation go further.

Thanks for your continued support of our work.
– The Amarna Project Team”

You can follow the progress of the fundraiser and keep up-to-date with all things Amarna through their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/amarnaproject
All the best,
Ankh_Nfr
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