Ancient Egypt Through Its Pottery – Dig Deeper Episode 1

Ancient Egypt Through Its Pottery – Dig Deeper Episode 1


Welcome to Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt. My name is Doctor Erin Peters and I’m an Assistant Curator here and I work on Ancient Egypt when it was a part of the Roman World. We’re gonna go a bit further back in time today to talk about the very beginnings of what we think of as “sustained human settlement” in Egypt talking about some of our great pots. Now, you might think, “Why are pots so great?” Well, we have a really great representative collection, a number of different types – and I’ll point out a few of them on the way here. And we also have all the way back when we start to think about when people started to settle instead of being hunter/gatherers almost seven or six thousand years ago. People started settling in the Nile Valley coming from different parts of Africa and also North in what we know as the Ancient Near East. And bringing with them from the Ancient Near East we have different knowledge of agriculture and also of animal domestication. Animal domestication and agriculture particularly as it’s human aided in time give us a sense of how humans interacted and used the natural world around them for their own sustained settlement. And in Egypt the great star of the story of course is the Nile River itself, which flooded every year and it left a rich, illuvial soil on either side of it’s riverbanks. Form that we have our pots. These come from Nile River clay When you think about pots you think also about people who need to store things. You wouldn’t really need to store things if you were constantly on the move. But we start seeing pots, lots of them, in wonderful different types. This one here, a black-topped red ware bowl, is one of the great examples of this type that is actually quite beautiful to look at. You can imagine you can see that here in these different versions. We also have two different vessels of what’s called Red Polished Ware You can imagine that this is a reddish color very similar to the clay but it has been doctored up a bit to make it polished for it’s surface. You can see it’s very different from another type which we call, wonderfully, Rough Ware And this is because it hasn’t been polished and does not have that nice kind of shiny sheen that our red polished ware does. Egyptologists tend to think that this type of vessel, this rough ware, is what we would have used more commonly every day but these could also be included in graves. And of course out other vessels here would also have been included. Now these don’t really have signs of wear so they probably were made specifically for grave goods. We think a lot of these nice executed and as well as not being used objects were probably for people who were higher in status of money. And this is the time period that we start seeing actually stratified society as well as sustained human settlement. So these vessels are very exciting for us because they introduce different types of material. Building on talking about clay vessels, our pots we have so many of, these vessels you can see a different type in this lovely small jar back here. It’s a type of limestone. So stone vessels… And this one here is actually made out of copper. It has a pretty strange shape if you look at it closely and it’s because it was buried in a tomb and likely had things that were heavier on top of it, which made it sort of bend in. So not that this bowl would have been this shape normally in life. So talking about social stratification in Egypt we talked about how people were buried of different types of levels of society at this time period – 3,000/4,000 BCE and then we start to have real social stratification around the time of 3,000 BCE. We know of a king that was named Narmer who was very famous for being the so-called first king that united Upper and Lower Egypt. So, very excited to show yet another type of vessel, this one over here as you can see has these interesting wavy handles and so Egyptologists, interestingly have called it “The wavy handled ware jar.” The wavy handled ware jar is also part of our pre-dynastic time period when again we’re working, the Nile River is flooding the river banks for this type of clay. In our social stratification thinking about the Nile as being the center backbone to the geography and then also the ruling power of Egypt with our king in the separation of our geography for the king’s ruling is Upper and Lower Egypt and when the king is in a time of social peace the Upper and the Lower Egypt are united and that becomes the full of Egypt as we know it. Thinking also about how the Egyptians had relations with people from all over the ancient world really from the very beginning of Time. Sometimes we think of Egypt as being isolated because there’s so much desert around that Nile River but in reality we have people trading ideas all the way from, like I said, about 4,000 BCE So moving to different types of pottery and vessels that are coming from different areas of the ancient world, I’d like to point out these two, what we call, Pilgrim’s Flasks that we believe are emulating forms that are coming from the Mycenaean and Syria Palaestinian areas of the ancient world. And here in the middle of this case here we have this fantastic female figurine thinking again that it’s coming from Mycenaean styles and that figure is actually made out of mud which is really fantastic. To the left we have a Cypriote Jar coming from the island of Cypress and then on the left this really tall, slender jar and bottle is coming from the Syrian area. And most of these jars are really thought to have held very important ointments and oils that would have been luxury goods. So thinking about these different styles as being important to the Egyptians of all through time, really. A lot of these objects that are in the back date to what we call The New Kingdom Now coming to the very close border of Egypt: These two objects in the front here this decorated horn and this deep bowl are known to come from Egypt’s very southern neighbor and this is Ancient Nubia, which is the modern Sudan. And if you think about the map of Egypt taking the Nile River down to what we call the first cataract is the border between ancient Egypt and Ancient Nubia. It’s still the border today between modern Aswan and Lower Nubia. The decorated horn and this deep bowl are showing similar types of usage of materials that we’ve seen with the other objects from Egypt made from, really, the natural world are vessels some of them are coming from the clay itself of the Nile River and give us a sense of how humans developed society in relationship with and also in use of the natural world for a major society that we are still fascinated by today.

1 thought on “Ancient Egypt Through Its Pottery – Dig Deeper Episode 1”

  1. Always wondered why some storage pots are pointed on the bottom. They can not be set on a flat surface. Why?

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