Back at SAV1East, Sai Island

SAI_0926As scheduled, we started today the 2014 field season with our team of workmen, supervised by Rais Imad Mohammed Farah and our NCAM inspector Huda Magzoub. It’s very good to be back at SAV1East – we extended our excavation area towards the North and West aiming to cover more of Building A.

SAI_0936SAI_0946Especially the Western part proved already very interesting after the first surface cleaning – almost 50 % of the ceramics are 18th Dynasty in date! They can be well dated to Thutmoside time respectively the mid 18th Dynasty. Like we observed in 2013, the amount of beer jars and bread moulds is striking! Especially conical bread moulds increase in quantity the further south we get in our new squares – mirroring the results of last year and probably reflecting the nearness to Temple A, the local Amun-Re temple of the 18th Dynasty.

Just today, I had already fragments of 30 bread moulds among the surface material, always associated with 18th Dynasty beer jars and flower pots. Hopefully we will be able to contextualize these findings this year more precisely!

Drawing with our new interactive tablet


At the moment I am working with a new device – an interactive multi-touch pen display which is really exciting because it is tablet and monitor in one. So far I have drawn with a tablet only. First of all: drawing with this interactive tablet takes practice – you have to find the right position for drawing and get used to it. Arranging the original drawing you want to digitalize on the tablet is quite easy – we just fix the tracing paper directly with tape to the tablet.


My next step was to personalize everything, e.g. to calibrate the pen, to define key assignments and so on. I am using Adobe Illustrator for drawing, offering tools and applications of high precision. I can choose different line thicknesses, different styles of hatching, color schemes etc. – so there are no big restrictions in comparison to ink the pencil drawings.


But there is one major difference which is also a great advantage: with digital drawing you can easily erase mistakes with your pen. In our case, I just use the interactive pen upside down and my line gets erased again. Currently, I’m finalizing New Kingdom pottery drawings from the field season 2013. It will be exciting to produce in the upcoming season my own pencil drawings at the site thus being responsible from the first step of the documentation until the final digitalization.



Potential of decorated pottery I: Semiotics

At present, analysing semiotic aspects of ancient pottery is quite on vogue in archaeology (cf. Preucel 2010: 230–238 and passim). I do see much potential in this approach and I have recently presented a small case study on Blue painted pottery (Budka 2013). Of course there are clear limits of possibilities to reconstruct ancient ideas and symbolism – nevertheless the famous Blue painted ware with ornamental Hathor vessels (for which see most recently the great post by Anna Garnett, Manchester Museum), Bes jars and mostly floral decoration nicely illustrates that such New Kingdom vessels had a symbolic value, probably with several semantic layers.

Selected Blue painted pottery vessels (Berlin and London).

Selected Blue painted pottery vessels (Berlin and London).

The colour blue may have referred to faience and glass instead of pottery in the first place. Colin Hope assumed a time-specific taste for the Blue painted pottery: “The impetus for its manufacture undoubtedly lay in the taste for elaboration during an age of luxury” (Hope 1982, 88). A preference for blue as a matter of taste and an expression of a specific Zeitgeist seems indeed likely (cf. Budka 2013). Here it is important that as archaeologist we take into account a wide range of emotions possibly associated with objects in various contexts and in different social strata – of course these associations cannot be kept apart from culture and society in general (cf.  Tarlow 2000, 713). The aesthetic qualities of Blue painted vessels are usually highly valued in the eyes of modern Egyptologists – but can we trace aspects of its approval in the mind of the Ancient Egyptians? It is striking that common vessel types like simple beakers and dishes appear together with special, large ornamental vessels with complex applications within the corpus of Blue painted ware (cf. Budka 2008). Thus, sometimes the only difference to well-known vessel types of the New Kingdom is simply the decoration. Here the colour blue and the common floral motifs (painted or moulded) like the blue lotus seem to refer to wide-ranging creative aspects and especially to rebirth (cf. Budka 2013).

For a short time, Blue painted pottery formed an integral component of the material culture of the New Kingdom, both of the domestic equipment and of the votive offerings for temples and sanctuaries. Similar to painted wares in various cultural contexts around the world, it may have “served as the good china of the day” (Wonderley 1986, 506). Because of the particular character of the ware daily activities for which Blue painted pottery was used, received a special connotation. I don’t think that the simple presence of blue painted or other “exotic” vessels in domestic settings do necessarily suggest a “palace character”, a comfortable lifestyle or high status of its inhabitants: they point rather to the presence of religious, cultic or festive activities respectively the evocation of such a sphere.

Blue painted pottery is present at all sites investigated within the framework of AcrossBorders – at Sai, Elephantine and also at Abydos. But the number of sherds found at Sai is still very limited – maybe this is one of the differences to the Egyptian sites. However, there is the possibility to investigate the multiple semantic layers of ceramic vessels with another case study for our project: a group of decorated vessels in red-and-black painted (Bichrome) style. These vessels are attested in Egypt both in Nile clay and in Marl clay variants, whereas in Upper Nubia preferably Nile silt versions are known (Ruffieux 2009; Budka 2011).

Bichrome painted jar fragment from Sai Island.

Bichrome painted jar fragment from Sai Island.

Based on a number of closely similar fragments from Elephantine and Sai, we will try to find possible answers to the question whether the specific decorative bichrome painted style and the most common motifs like antelopes, horses and flowers have a similar symbolic value for its users, both in Egypt and Upper Nubia. Our last week at Elephantine will therefore focus on the documentation of these very specific red-and-black painted vessels.

My New Kingdom pottery database of Elephantine counts a total of 52 Nile clay vessels and 52 Marl clay bichrome painted sherds which will enable us to address some of the questions outlined here.

Fragments of a bichrome painted Nile clay jar from Elephantine.

Fragments of a bichrome painted Nile clay jar from Elephantine.


Budka 2008 = VIII. Weihgefäße und Festkeramik des Neuen Reiches von Elephantine, in G. Dreyer et al., Stadt und Tempel von Elephantine, 33./34./35. Grabungsbericht, in Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäolog­ischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 64, 106–132.

Budka 2011 = J. Budka, The early New Kingdom at Sai Island: Preliminary results based on the pottery analysis (4th Season 2010), in Sudan & Nubia 15, 23–33.

Budka 2013 = Festival Pottery of New Kingdom Egypt: Three Case Studies, in Functional Aspects of Egyptian Ceramics within their Archaeological Context. Proceedings of a Conference held at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, July 24th – July 25th, 2009, ed. by Bettina Bader & Mary F. Ownby, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 217, Leuven, 185–213.

Hope 1982 = C.A. Hope, Blue-Painted Pottery, in E. Brovarski, S.K. Doll and R.E. Freed (eds.), Egypt’s Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom, Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, 88-90.

Preucel 2010 = R. W. Preucel, Archaeological Semiotics, Malden and Oxford.

Ruffieux 2009 = P. Ruffieux, Poteries découvertes dans un temple égyptien de la XVIIIe dynastie à Doukki Gel (Kerma), in Genava 57, 121-134.

Tarlow 2000 = S. Tarlow, Emotion in Archaeology, in Current Anthropology 41, no. 5, 713-745.

Wonderley 1986 = A. Wonderley, Material Symbolics in Pre-Columbian Households: The Painted Pottery of Naco, Honduras, in Journal of Anthropological Research 42, no. 4, 497-534.

The enigmatic “fish dishes” from New Kingdom settlements

A peculiar type of vessel is frequently found in Egyptian settlements, already from the 13th Dynasty onwards (see Bader 2001, 81–83; Aston and Bader 2009). These quite large, thick walled oval, handmade trays show incised decoration on the interior – commonly depicting fishes, lotus flowers and geometric motives (see, e.g., a nice dish from Kahun, now at the Manchester Museum).

Consequently a label as “fish dish” was proposed for these trays which somehow resemble the well-known Nun-bowls of the New Kingdom (cf. Bader 2001, 81–83). However, in settlement contexts of the later Second Intermediate Period and the early New Kingdom the pattern of these trays are mostly geometrical – diagonal lines, net pattern and fish bone pattern. The function is therefore still debated – such dishes might have been used for peeling corn or scaling fishes (“Schälbecken”), as bread trays or as trays with a (still unclear) ritual function (cf. Seiler 2005, 120–121).

At all sites investigated within the framework of AcrossBorders (Sai Island, Elephantine and South-Abydos), so-called “bread trays” are well attested.

Fragment of Marl "bread tray" from Elephantine.

Fragment of Marl “bread tray” from Elephantine.

Fragment of Marl "bread tray" from South Abydos

Fragment of Marl “bread tray” from South Abydos







At Sai Island, the trays occur both in Egyptian Marl clay (Marl B and Marl E, a special variant of Marl B, see Arnold and Bourriau 1993, 182 and fig. 26) and in local Nile clay variants; the shapes and decoration patterns are in both cases the same. Parallels for the Marl clay examples are known, apart from Elephantine and South Abydos, from early 18th Dynasty contexts at Deir el-Ballas (Bourriau 1990, 21–22) and also from Lower and Upper Nubia (e.g. Buhen (Emery, Smith and Millard 1979, pl. 73) and Sesebi (Spence and Rose et al. 2011, 37)). As yet, the only published parallel for a Nile clay tray comes from a funerary context at Thebes (Seiler 2005, 104-5, fig. 52). However, in the Egyptian settlement at Elephantine, Nile clay trays were found in strata of the 18th Dynasty, closely resembling the ones from Sai.

Nile clay "bread tray" from Sai Island.

Nile clay “bread tray” from Sai Island.

Today, I searched both the Sai Island and the Elephantine New Kingdom databases for “bread trays”. The results are quite remarkable – in both cases 16 pieces for levels ranging in date from the early 18th Dynasty to the mid/late 18th Dynasty have been studied in detail and are included in the databases. At Elephantine, only four examples are made in coarse Nile clay (25 %), whereas the others are made in Marl B respectively Marl E (75 %). At SAV1North, nine examples are of a local, very coarse Nile clay (56 %) and seven have been produced in Egypt, made in a Marl B/E variant (44 %).

Of course the number of these vessels documented in detail is very small – I will have to address the same question to the general statistics of all New Kingdom contexts at SAV1North and Elephantine, not just to the database entries only. Nevertheless, I think this small, but significant difference allows already some preliminary thoughts: Maybe it was more difficult at Sai in Upper Nubia to get replacements for the “real” Marl B/E trays – thus, they were produced in local material. Alternatively one also might speculate, considering the still unknown function of the vessels, that the shape was for some reasons more popular in Sai and more frequently created on demand. It seems as if the difference in material did not make a difference for the ancient users of the trays – and this, from my perspective, makes a use as “Schälbecken” quite unlikely; the Nile clay versions are much softer and porous, not well suited for peeling organic materials. All in all, these vessels might have been fashionable in Upper Nubia because they reflected “Egyptian” life style and were foreign to the local Nubian culture – their specific outer appearance and properties which we as archaeologists use to create classifications and typologies maybe had little significance within the antique context.


Arnold and Bourriau 1993 = Dorothea Arnold and Janine Bourriau (eds.), An Introduction to Ancient Egyptian Pottery, SDAIK 17, Mainz am Rhein 1993.

Aston and Bader 2009 = David A. Aston and Bettina Bader, with a contribution by Karl G. Kunst, Fishes, ringstand, nudes and hippos – a preliminary report on the Hyksos palace pit complex L81, E & L 19, 2009, 19–89.

Bader 2001 = Bettina Bader Tell el-Daba XIII, Typologie und Chronologie der Mergel C-Ton Keramik des Mittleren Reiches und der Zweiten Zwischenzeit, UZK 19, Vienna 2001.

Bourriau 1990 = Janine Bourriau, The Pottery, 15–22 and 54–65 [figs.], in: P. Lacovara, Deir el-Ballas, Preliminary Report on the Deir el-Ballas Expedition, 1980-1986, ARCE Reports 12, Winona Lake, Indiana.

Budka 2006 = Julia Budka, The Oriental Institute Ahmose and Tetisheri Project at Abydos 2002-2004: The New Kingdom pottery, E & L 16, 2006, 83–120.

Emery, Smith and Millard 1979 = Walter B. Emery, Harry S. Smith and Ann Millard, The Fortress of Buhen. The archaeological report, EEF Excavation Memoir 49, London 1979.

Seiler 2005 = Anne Seiler, Tradition & Wandel. Die Keramik als Spiegel der Kulturentwicklung in der Zweiten Zwischenzeit, SDAIK 32, Mainz am Rhein 2005.

Spence and Rose et al. 2011 = Kate Spence and Pamela Rose et al., Sesebi 2011, Sudan & Nubia 15, 2011, 34–38.

At Egypt’s Southern Border: Early New Kingdom pottery from Elephantine

Yesterday, Sebastian Stiefel and I have happily arrived on Elephantine Island. Thanks to our cooperation with the Swiss Institute for Architectural and Archaeological Research in Egypt and the German Archaeological Institute Cairo, we will work here in the upcoming weeks on New Kingdom ceramics, excavated in settlement contexts in various areas of the ancient town. Our special interest is of course a detailed comparison between the material from this important Egyptian site just north of the First Cataract and the finds from Sai Island in Upper Nubia.

While Sebastian is already busy in drawing ceramics, I am currently sorting through boxes and checking database entries. Today, I had the nice opportunity to come back to contexts I’ve worked on in my first season of the New Kingdom ceramics project, back in 2000! 13 years later and with much more experience and a wider knowledge of parallels, I took a fresh look at certain samples and specific sherds which posed some problems.

Among these sherds is an intriguing type of vessel: carinated dishes with incised wavy lines and finger pinched or cut rims. These dishes are regularly red washed, sometimes with additional white as decoration, and they often show vertical applications on the upper part of the vessel. This type is commonly associated with the Second Intermediate Period pottery tradition in Egypt; early variants are already attested since the late Middle Kingdom in Egypt, but these dishes are more common during the Second Intermediate Period (cf. Budka 2011: 29-30).

Carinated dishes with incised wavy-line decoration.

Carinated dishes with incised wavy-line decoration.

Back in 2000, I therefore concluded my sherds from early 18th Dynasty context must be residual pieces – traces of the former occupation during the 17th Dynasty. But now, with both more material from Elephantine and the very close parallels from Sai Island, I would interpret this differently. It seems as if certain variants of these carinated dishes survived up to Thutmoside times, at least to the reign of Thutmose III. At Elephantine, we not only encounter it in Level 10 (Bauschicht 10, early 18th Dynasty to Hatshepsut), but also rarely in the following Level 9 of mid-late 18th Dynasty date. The same holds true for Sai – Level 4, early 18th Dynasty and Level 3, Thutmoside-late 18th Dynasty, produced examples of such vessels. Furthermore, our colleagues working at Sesebi also found similar types in 18th Dynasty contexts (Spence, Rose et al. 2011: 35, fig. 5).

Carinated dishes with incised wavy-line decoration from New Kingdom contexts.

Carinated dishes with incised wavy-line decoration from New Kingdom contexts.

With the present knowledge, I therefore feel reluctant to explain all of these wavy-line decorated carinated dishes from New Kingdom strata as residual pieces, originating in the Second Intermediate Period. Rather, this particular type illustrates that we have to think about possibly very long traditions of ceramic types as well as regional productions and local preferences. Second Intermediate style was not completely passé by the time of the 18th Dynasty! This is very obvious at both Egypt’s Southern border as illustrated by Elephantine and in Upper Nubia with Sai Island as a case study.


Budka, Julia. 2011. “The early New Kingdom at Sai Island: Preliminary results based on the pottery analysis (4th Season 2010).” Sudan & Nubia 15, p. 23-33.

Spence, Kate, Pamela Rose et al. 2011. “Sesebi 2011.” Sudan & Nubia 15, p. 34-38.

Pots & pieces

In some respect I am very old-fashioned when it comes to analysing pottery – for example, I am still a big fan of organising a preliminary corpus of shapes on paper, with the copied drawings! It nice to have all of them together on a table and arranging them into groups, with the big advantage to simple add pieces or rearrange them differently.

DW 2908-2013

A very uncomplaining cutter…

Over 800 pencil drawings from 3 field seasons at Sai Island (2011-2013) have been quite a challenge for Daniela the last weeks – after the heroic accomplishment of copying all the drawings, she is now using the spaciousness of our nice office to deal with the arrangement of the copied pieces.

This old-fashioned but effective mode of arranging pottery drawings according to shapes and ware groups goes back to my training at Elephantine – first supervised by Dietrich Raue, helping with his Old Kingdom material and later adapting it to my New Kingdom material. At Elephantine, one of the prime considerations was to have a back-up copy of all drawings in the dig house.

Samples of paper copies of pottery drawings from Elephantine.

Samples of paper copies of pottery drawings from Elephantine: fragments of decorated marl clay vessels.

A nice group of decorated vessels from mid 18th Dynasty contexts at Elephantine provides good parallels for sherds from the New Kingdom Town of Sai Island. Marl clay bottles with a long neck are painted either in red and black, in red, black and blue, or in black only. The motifs comprise simple linear designs as well as floral and faunal elements (e.g. flowers, lotus buds, ducks and papyrus). The as-yet published parallels are dated to the reigns of Amenhotep II to Thutmose IV (see especially Hope 1987, 108–109 and 116), which corresponds well with the stratigraphic evidence at Elephantine (see Budka 2010) and also the findings from Sai. On the basis of the parallels, a Theban provenience has been proposed for the decorated vessels found at Elephantine – and this seems also very likely for Sai. We will address this issue of provenience in the upcoming years by means of scientific analysis, especially with Neutron Activation Analysis and XRF, hopefully providing more information about the contacts and exchange of wares and pots between Upper Egypt and Upper Nubia.


Budka 2010 = J. Budka, The New Kingdom-Pottery from Elephantine, in D. Raue, C. von Pilgrim, P. Kopp, F. Arnold, M. Bommas, J. Budka, M. Schultz, J. Gresky, A. Kozak and St. J. Seidlmayer, Report on the 37th season of excavation and restoration on the island of Elephantine, Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte 84, 2010, 350-352.

Hope 1987= C. A. Hope, Innovation and Decoration of Ceramics in the Mid-18th Dynasty, CCÉ 1, 1987, 97-122.

Hybrid pottery types at Egyptian sites in Nubia

Hybrid pottery types

An interesting phenomenon was addressed during several papers at the colloquium last week in London: The appearance of “hybrid” pottery types – locally produced vessels modelled on Egyptian types, but with a “Nubian” influence as far as the surface treatment, production technique or decoration is concerned. Well attested at Sai, Amara West and Sesebi, such types raise a number of questions. Egyptian style vessels made of local fabrics, shaped by hand or (clumsily) wheel-made with a Nubian surface treatment like ripple burnishing or incised decoration might be products of a temporary or local fashion. It remains to be investigated whether they also refer to the cultural identity of their users or whether they are the results of more complicated processes. All in all, hybrid pottery types from New Kingdom levels seem to attest a complex mixture of life styles in Upper Nubia.

At Sai, examples have been found both at SAV1 North and SAV1 East in 18th Dynasty levels, especially in contexts datable to the Thutmoside period.

The pottery samples: materials and methods

The ceramic samples for the archaeometric analyses comprise by now sixty-one sherds selected during the last field season from both sectors SAV 1North (48 samples) and SAV 1East (13 samples) of Sai Island New Kingdom Town.

All of the sherds have been classified according to their macroscopic features and these data were collected in the File Maker Database of the project.

In addition, prior to proceeding with the laboratory analyses, we took photographs of both the surfaces and sections of each sample. The samples are labelled with a new code: the acronym “SAV/S” (= “Sai Island New Kingdom Town/Sample”) followed by a progressive number, starting from SAV/S 01, and linked to the original ceramic number as recorded in the pottery database. nike free mary jane

NC 702.1 (SAV/S 14) – Dish in Nile clay B2/C2

NC 702.1 (SAV/S 14) – Dish in Nile clay B2/C2

The samples from both SAV 1North and SAV 1 East come from distinct areas, structures and layers of the archaeological deposit. They include different kinds of wares and shapes representing the variability of the pottery corpus. Among others, ceramics comprise Nubian beakers and cooking pots, Egyptian Nile silt wares (dishes, bowls, bread plates and bread moulds), Marl clay jars and imported amphora from both Canaan and the Egyptian oases. kids nike free

NC 702.8 (SAV/S 23) – squat jar in Marl A2

NC 702.8 (SAV/S 23) – squat jar in Marl A2

NC 766 (SAV/S 41) – Oasis amphora

NC 766 (SAV/S 41) – Oasis amphora







Forthcoming petrographic and chemical analyses will help us discriminating between these different samples and answering very important archaeological questions concerning the provenience, the technology of production, as well as the geographical distribution of these ceramics.

The cosmopolitan inhabitants of New Kingdom Sai?

Having read a very interesting article this week, I would like to come back to the subject of Egyptian imitations of Aegean vessels and imported fine wares in contexts of the New Kingdom town of Sai Island.

Caitlin Barrett 2009 investigates “The Perceived Value of Minoan and Minoanizing Pottery in Egypt” – by reviewing the archaeological contexts and by comparing this evidence to the textual and iconographic data, Barrett comes up with some very interesting thoughts on Egyptian attitudes towards Minoan goods.

Minoan vessels were obviously highly valued by the Egyptians of the 18th Dynasty (Barrett 2009: 221), but are not restricted to the elite as they are attested in contexts of various social strata, with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. I find the following especially thought-provoking: “During the Late Bronze Age, then, Egyptians may have valued Minoan ceramic imports not only because they were specifically Minoan, but also, more generally, because they came from this international sphere. The use of foreign objects and design motifs would have given private individuals a way to participate in this far-ranging koiné, demonstrating their sophistication and cosmopolitanism.” (Barrett 2009: 225)

Within the context of Sai this line of thought opens a lot of questions: Was it appealing for the Egyptians living on Sai to be perceived by the local inhabitants as cosmopolitan Egyptians? Was the range of painted ceramic vessels, so different from the Nubian pottery style, used to demonstrate the sophistication of the officials? Or was it perhaps important for an Egyptian himself, living abroad, to surround himself with things and objects evoking the international sphere from cities like Memphis and Thebes back home?

Pottery as one of the main classes of material culture in ancient settlements was of prime importance for daily activities but ceramic vessels are also carrying information about the identity of its user. This holds especially true for vessels related to food preparation and consumption, but equally for other types within the large corpus of settlement pottery with various functional aspects. I wonder whether the considerable amount of imported (not Egyptian) vessels on Sai in the early-mid 18th Dynasty, with a large number of painted jars, contributed to create a “home away from home” for an Egyptian official in the 18th Dynasty. The complex mixture of ceramics, including imitations of Minoan vessels like the pottery rhyton N/C 1205, might have allowed the temporary inhabitants of Upper Nubia to participate in the international age in vogue at home. Or at least to fake a sophisticated life according to the standards at home.

Apart from this attractive idea of an active role of ceramic vessels in creating “Pharaonic life style” on Sai Island (cf. Barrett 2009: 227), it is also possible that imported vessels were regarded, especially in Upper Nubia and maybe by (Egyptianized) Nubians, as simply pretty “knick-knacks with exotic cachet” (Barrett 2009: 226). However, as objects never have one single meaning, it remains to be tested how the entire ceramic corpus of New Kingdom Sai contributes to the reconstruction of life styles on the island.


Barrett, Caitlin E., The Perceived Value of Minoan and Minoanizing Pottery in Egypt, Journal of mediterranean archaeology 22, 2009, 211-234.

Egyptian imitation of Aegean vessels: A rhyton from Sai

Last week, some of the Aegean imports found on Sai Island in contexts of the 18th Dynasty were mentioned. Today, I would like to present a so far unique piece from SAV1 North.

It is the lower part of a decorated rhyton, covered in a red slip and burnished, made in a very fine Nile B (SAV1N N/C 1205). The conical vessel shape is characteristically Aegean; it is an Egyptian imitation of a Late Minoan IA rhyton, known from other sites in Egypt (especially finds from Tell el-Daba/Ezbet Helmi, see Hein 2013: fig. 6; cf. also Egyptian faience versions of Aegean rhyta, Vermeule 1982). Rhyta are attested in various shapes and types, but as a rule they have a secondary opening apart from the mouth. This also holds true for N/C 1205 which was perforated at its base.

The fragment of an Egyptian imitation of an Aegean rython from Sai

The fragment of an Egyptian imitation of an Aegean rhyton from Sai

The area around the perforated bottom of N/C 1205 is painted in black with floral elements. Just above these lotus flowers a register with figural painting is still partly visible. It seems to be a scene in the marshes: a striding male figure is carrying two fishes hanging from a pole set on his shoulder. This motif finds a close parallel in one of the silver vessels from the famous Bubastis hoard, characterised by a mixture of Near Eastern and Egyptian styles and motifs (see Bakr/Brandl 2010). Further parallels can be named from the tomb decoration of Egyptian private tombs, especially of the Middle Kingdom and the 18th Dynasty at Thebes.

What may be the function of such an extraordinary vessel in the New Kingdom town of Sai? Similar as the precious metal vessels from Bubastis, also pottery rhyta like N/C 1205 probably had the character of luxury items (cf. Hein 2013). Furthermore, the Egyptian “fish” motif as part of a little marsh scene might be interpreted as a symbol of renewal (cf. Minault-Gout 2004: 120; Stevens 2006: 55-56, 180). Such a general sphere of creation is also evoked by a small pottery figure vase in the form of a fish, a tilapia nilotica, which was discovered in one of the 18th Dynasty tombs at Sai (Minault-Gout 2004: 120; Minault-Gout/Thill 2012: 55-67, tomb 8, no. 87, pl. 160). This remarkable zoomorphic vessel (Khartoum SNM 31319) is, like N/C 1205, a fine red slipped and burnished Nile clay, decorated with black paint. Figure vessels of this type are rare, but another example was found in Upper Nubia at Soleb (see Bourriau 1982: 103-104, no. 86.)

All in all, the Egyptian rhyton from Sai Island illustrates not only the international age of 18th Dynasty Egypt and contacts to the Aegean, but it also refers to important aspects of daily life like creation and fertility.



Bakr/Brandl 2010 = M. I. Bakr/H. Brandl, Precious metal hoards from Bubastis, in M.I. Bakr/H. Brandl with F. Kalloniatis (eds.), Egyptian Antiquities from Kufur Nigm and Bubastis, Berlin, 2010, 43-53.

Bourriau 1982 = J. Bourriau, No. 86: Fish vase, in E. Brovarski/S.K. Doll/R.E. Freed (eds.), Egypt’s Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 103-104.

Hein 2013 = I. Hein, Cypriot and Aegean features in New Kingdom Egypt: cultural elements interpreted from archaeological finds, in P. Kousoulis/N. Lazaridis (eds.), Tenth International Con­gress of Egyptologists, University of the Aegean, Department of Mediterranean Studies, Rhodes 22-29 May 2008 (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta), Leuven, 2013 [in press].

Minault-Gout 2004 = A. Minault-Gout, Cat. 95: Figure vase in the form [of] a fish, in D.A. Welsby/J.R. Anderson (eds.), Sudan. Ancient Treasures. An Exhibition of recent discoveries from the Sudan National Museum, London, 2004, 120.

Minault-Gout/Thill 2012 = A. Minault-Gout/F.Thill, Saï II. Le cimetière des tombes hypogées du Nouvel Empire (SAC5) (FIFAO 69), Cairo, 2012.

Stevens 2006 = A. Stevens, Private Religion at Amarna (British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1587), Oxford, 2006.

Vermeule 1982 = E.T. Vermeule, Egyptian Imitations of Aegean Vases, in E. Brovarski/S.K. Doll/R.E. Freed (eds.), Egypt’s Golden Age: The Art of Living in the New Kingdom, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 152-153.