Amara West project blog


Investigating life in an Egyptian town

Amara West 2013: luxury in stone

Schist bowl found in building E13.16Marie Vandenbeusch, Egyptologist

Excavating Amara West, as with all ancient Egyptian cities, produces a great amount of pottery. The shapes of the pots tells us how they were used, whether to store food, transport goods or for use at the table. Vessels made from other materials are rare, particularly at Amara West: we are overwhelmed by thousands and thousands of ceramic sherds, but only a few stone vessels.

Schist bowl found in building E13.16 (F6917)

Schist bowl found in building E13.16 (F6917)

The shapes and materials again vary. Fragments of a large plate were found two years ago, and some pieces of miniature stone vessels including one of granodiorite. However, most fragments belonged to small-medium sized containers: bowls, plates and cups. Just last week, a nice shallow bowl carved in schist (F6917) was found in building E13.16. Only a small part of the base is missing, but we can still see the very fine and thin vessel walls (five mm thick near the base), all beautifully polished – the work of an accomplished stoneworker.

Fragment of a footed cup (F4743)

Fragment of a footed cup (F4743)

Calcite, commonly known as Egyptian alabaster, is the most common type of stone used for vessels at the site. With no quarries known in Nubia, the stone, and probably the finished vessels, must have been imported from Egypt. Fragments found at Amara West are finely-worked, some even decorated. The pattern can be very simple, with lines in black ink around the edge, or decorative motifs including triangular patterns.

Finely polished calcite vessel lid (F3164)

Finely polished calcite vessel lid (F3164)

Vessel lids, important to preserve contents in the hot and dusty conditions, were usually made of clay or pottery, but some finely carved stone lids were made for the stone vessels. We have found examples in quartzite and calcite.

Rarely discovered, we can assume these stone vessels were not part of the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants. Perhaps some of them come originally from the temple, or the residence of the Deputy of Kush, or maybe they belonged to the wealthier individuals who lived in the town.

Calcite containers may have been used for particular contents, such as cosmetic powders and oils.

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Find out more about the Amara West research project
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