ANCIENT EGYPTIAN FAIENCE
POWDERED QUARTZ FOR THE PRODUCTION OF FAIENCE VESSELS FROM THE ANCIENT CITY OF ATHRIBIS IN THE NILE DELTA IN EGYPT CAME FROM TAILING HEAPS THAT WERE LEFT OVER FROM GOLD MINING, RESEARCHERS FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF WARSAW AND THE CARDINAL STEFAN WYSZYNSKI UNIVERSITY HAVE FOUND.
Near Benha to the northeast on the hill of Kom Sidi Yusuf, there once stood the ancient city of Tell Atrib (Athribis). The city served as the seat of government during the ninth Lower Egyptian nome, and Egyptians have occupied the location since the Old Kingdom.
The ruins of artisan workshops and kilns were discovered by archaeologists working for a Polish-Egyptian archaeological mission between 1985 and 1995. The purpose of the kilns was unclear at the time, but experts speculated that they were used to burn the faience pots that had been discovered nearby.
According to a recent National Science Centre-funded study on faience products from Tell Atrib, some of the kilns could have been used to fire faience vessels at temperatures between 1050 and 1150 degrees Celsius, according to engineering geologist Magorzata Zaremba of the Institute of Archaeology at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw.
Seven pieces of 2,000-year-old bowls that were covered in a glaze and had a blue color and luster were examined chemically by the researchers. Convex and concave designs, including geometric and floral patterns (lotus flowers, leaves, etc.) as well as figural scenarios, are used to embellish them. These motifs are typical of Egyptian, Greek, and Oriental cultures.
Approximately 90% of the material was quartz powder, 4% was a burnt lime and bone meal mixture, 2% was river fluvisol, 2% was gelatine, 1% was feldspar flour, and 1% was lead sulphide. During the firing process, each of these components served a crucial purpose. For instance, gelatine provided the mixture its plasticity.
“Egypt provided every component for the creation of the warships, including those from its farther-flung locations. “High-quality quartz powder from gold-bearing veins in the Eastern Desert of Egypt was used to make all the examples of faience bowls from Tell Atrib that we examined,” explains Zaremba.
The quartz used to make faience was mined in the Eastern Desert, where it was found in heaps left over from gold mining. These sites are situated between the Red Sea and the Nile Valley, 500–600 kilometers from Tell Atrib.
Zaremba claims that the absence of comparable data is due to the fact that no one has up to this point done a full investigation of faience pieces, particularly their cores.
However, she continues, “the research technique we have established and the resulting data may inspire other academics to perform more interdisciplinary research on faience items, not only from the Ptolemaic Period.”
Products made of faience were immensely popular throughout ancient Egypt’s long history. Faience was used to create blue and green figures, necklaces, and amulets, such as those shaped like the ankh, the key to life, in Egypt for many centuries. Scientists still don’t know the actual recipe and production process. At visitor stands at well-known structures like the Luxor Temple or the Giza Pyramids, souvenirs stylized like faience goods are now offered for sale.
The earliest things created in Egypt in this method date back to the period of the first pyramid builders, more than 4,500 years ago. The second millennium BC saw the peak of the technology’s development, and it continued to advance under Hatshepsut and Ramesses the Great.
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