Amara West project blog

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Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2014: a closer look at the D12.6 assemblage

Nubian cooking pot from Amara West

Chiara Salvador (University of Oxford) and Anna Garnett (University of Liverpool)

Further thoughts on the objects revealed by David Fallon on the floor of a room in house D12.6.

Anna: a complete beer jar came to light in the back room of house D12.6, and several shallow dishes in the large room at the centre of the house, but it was the three large vessels in room 5 – in the southwestern corner of the house – that were particularly interesting. After lying on the surface, exposed, for several days, to allow recording and photography, these finally came back to the house for study, drawing, more photography and storage.

Nubian cookpot and Egyptian-style storage jar on the floor in room D12.6.5

Nubian cookpot and Egyptian-style storage jar on the floor in room D12.6.5

The two tall vessels are Egyptian wheelmade ovoid jars, while the large squat jar is a Nubian cooking pot. We find many fragments of these across the site, but rarely intact.

Nubian cooking pot C2532, from D12.6.5

Nubian cooking pot C2532, from D12.6.5

These cooking pots are hand-made, not wheel-thrown, and often impressed with matting on the exterior surface. Pots cannot be equated to people, but clearly the last users of this space (the last inhabitants of the house? or use of the space after the house was partly collapsed?) were employing pottery vessels produced in both the Egyptian and Nubian ceramic tradiations. The presence of a burnt deposit on the interior of the Nubian vessel may also reveal, through future residue analysis, the type of food which was being cooked within.

Assemblage of stone tools from D12.6.5: grindstone to left; spherical grinding stones in middle; enigmatic black stone object to rear

Assemblage of stone tools from D12.6.5: grindstone to left; spherical grinding stones in middle; enigmatic black stone object to rear

Chiara: From the floor of the same house, close to the vessels just mentioned, David revealed an interesting assemblage of five grindstones and two pounders. We find many examples of these at the site, but rarely in association with each other and on a meaningful surface.

The largest is a long narrow-shaped grindstone in pale brown quartzite; its working surface, slightly convex at the centre and with two rounded lips at its two ends (only one preserved), has been finely smoothed. A shallow depression on the underside makes it ergonomic to use, perhaps by resting on the legs – although many would be placed on a floor or a shallow bench. We assume such objects were used for grinding cereal, but perhaps also other foodstuffs and pigments.

A roughly oval-shaped sandstone grindstone is more eroded and features two shallow grooves (1.7cm wide) that run parallel for about 10cm from one edge to its centre. This unusual feature may indicate a different use of this particular object – we have not yet thought of a convincing explanation!

The most bizarre and intriguing element of this assemblage is an oddly-shaped piece of worked dark stone. Roughly the shape of a three-dimensional triangle with two flat and two sloping sides, a thicker edge and a tapered one with an odd protrusion, it also has a saddle-like ‘upper surface’. The function of this object is far from clear, though its proximity to the other grindstones and pounders suggests that it was employed for grinding or other similar activities. Residues adhering to the upper surface offer the promise of finding out more.

The range of stones chosen for the spherical grinding or polishing stones, and their different shapes, indicate that they were used for processing a variety of substances, such as ochre, as suggested by the presence of red pigment on one of the pounders.

Studying such – at first sight unremarkable – objects, helps contribute towards the picture of what activities may have taken place in this medium-sized house at Amara West.

Alongside regular updates on the blog, follow the season on Twitter: @NealSpencer_BM and #AmaraWest

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