Amara West project blog


Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2016: Commodity and trade – imported pottery at Amara West

Anna Garnett (Project Curator, British Museum) and Valentina Gasperini (Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool)

When sorting through the many thousands of sherds from Amara West, it is relatively common to find flashes of light – imported pottery – amongst the generally homogenous mix of brown Nile clay sherds. While found in much smaller numbers than their Nile counterparts, such imported sherds are identifiably from regions including the Levant, Cyprus, the Greek mainland and the Egyptian oases.

View over Dakhleh Oasis. Creative Commons License © Argenberg.

View over Dakhleh Oasis. Creative Commons License © Argenberg.

Judging from the archaeological remains from the walled town and the extramural suburb, the residents of Amara West had access to a range of ‘foreign’ storage vessels, including large amphorae, pilgrim flasks and Mycenaean stirrup vessels. These vessels are likely to have contained precious imported commodities such as perfumed oils and balsams for cosmetic use, but as inherently beautiful objects it is entirely possible that their owners also reused the vessels in different ways after the contents had been consumed long ago, perhaps even before the pots arrived at Amara West.

Amphora toe C4764, made in the Dakhleh Oasis, found in industrial area E13.17.

Amphora toe C4764, made in the Dakhleh Oasis, found in industrial area E13.17.

Among the imported materials, an amphora base, most probably manufactured in Dakhleh Oasis and traded though Egypt to Amara West, has been identified from the walled town (C4764). During the New Kingdom, especially in the 18th Dynasty, the Western Desert oases gained prominence as part of the developing Egyptian economy. In particular, a flourishing production of local oasis wine, said to be of very high quality, led to the export of wine amphorae to major New Kingdom Egyptian sites including Qantir, Gurob, Amarna and Thebes.

Characterised by slightly oblique walls, a bottom-modelled base and a distinctive pre-firing pot mark at the attachment between the wall and base, this example finds good parallels among New Kingdom amphorae produced in Dakhleh oasis, not only in terms of shape but also of fabric. This amphora base could therefore be an intriguing hint at the import and consumption of wine from Dakhleh Oasis at Amara West in the late second millennium BC.

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Filed under: Amara West 2016, archaeology, ceramics

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