An update on Nun bowls from Sai Island

Back in 2015, Sabine Tschorn recorded all Nun bowl fragments from the New Kingdom town on Sai. This unique group of faience vessels is associated with regeneration and fertility and offers some insights into the daily life of 18th Dynasty Sai.

Happy with small, but diagnostic pieces of Nun-bowls from SAV1 West.

I am delighted that her analysis of the Nun bowls is now published (Tschorn 2017). In her paper, Sabine examines the excavated fragments and their distribution in the different sectors of the settlement as well as their diverse decorative motifs and functions. She is able to show that these faience vessels have to be seen in context with the architectural remains – for Sai, it is highly interesting that most fragments come from SAV1 North and SAV1 West, where a substantial amount of storage facilities and cellars was found, located close to the New Kingdom town wall. An association of the Nun bowls with ritual vessels like footed bowls for burning at both sectors might suggest a connection with offerings and libation. All in all, the function of Nun bowls in domestic settlements of the New Kingdom appears to be quite complex – once again stressing that daily life in ancient times also included various activities connected to the ritual and religious sphere (cf. Stevens 2006).

Thanks to the support of my FWF START project, the paper by Sabine has been published with full open access and will hopefully stimulate further research about an intriguing object group of the New Kingdom.


Stevens, A. 2006. Private Religion at Amarna. BAR International Series 1587. Oxford.

Tschorn, S. 2017. Nun-Schalen aus der Stadt des Neuen Reiches auf der Insel Sai, Ägypten und Levante 27, 431–446

Last steps in recording Faience vessels from Sai Island, New Kingdom town

Time flies by – only some months ago, we were working in the magazine of Sai Island documenting the different groups of objects. Sabine Tschorn had the special task to focus on faience vessels form the New Kingdom town. Most of the vessels within this group represent Nun- or marsh-bowls, frequently depicting marsh scenes with fishes, lotus plants and other motifs.

Sabine just came for a few days to Munich – in order to discuss things, to finalise small details of the drawings and records. We are in particular focusing on the distribution of the faience vessels – most of them were found in SAV1 North and SAV1 West and seem to be of late 18th Dynasty date. Adding the stratigraphical information and context as well as the data from the associated pottery will hopefully allow Sabine the fine-dating of some of the fragments.

ST 2015Looking much forward to the outcome of these days of checking and adding post-excavation data!

Categories of finds from Sai, New Kingdom town – some preliminary numbers

Working on the database of the finds and objects from Sai, New Kingdom town, a brief update is possible, especially regarding the amounts and percentages of categories of finds.

At present, a total of 2397 finds from SAV1 North, 1128 pieces from SAV1 East and 602 from SAV1 West have been registered in the databases. This reflects five years of work at SAV1 North (2008-2012) under the directorship of Florence Doyen for the SIAM, two seasons at SAV1 East and one season at SAV1 West for AcrossBorders. The number of finds from SAV1 East and SAV1 West is actually much higher, but because of time reasons we have not been able to document all of the worked stones and tools excavated in 2014. 850 find numbers have been used in 2014 at SAV1 West – including collections of textiles, bones, charcoal and leather which are not integrated in the small find database but treated separately. At SAV1 East, 898 bags of finds of all types and materials have been excavated.

Registration of finds during the 2014 season.

Registration of finds during the 2014 season.

The database of small finds comprises objects of all periods, thus also Post-Pharaonic material – for example, a large number of re-used sherds and figurines are of Medieval date, glass vessels and glazed wares attest to the Ottoman period on Sai and the date for the complete set of stone artefacts still has to be established.

Work in progress: the database of SAV1 East and SAV1 West.

Work in progress: the database of SAV1 East and SAV1 West.

At present, the corpus from SAV1 West is still not representative, but a comparison between SAV1 North and SAV1 East seems possible. The New Kingdom finds at both sectors are dominated by objects of Egyptian type and style.

Following a slightly modified system developed for Memphis (Giddy 1999), six main categories of finds have been established for Sai.

Distribution of finds according to categories from SAV1 North.

Distribution of finds according to categories from SAV1 North.



Distribution of finds according to categories from SAV1 East.

Distribution of finds according to categories from SAV1 East.


Category A is the label for figurines and statuettes, mostly of clay and mud. Both human and animal shapes are attested in various sizes and qualities – the total number from SAV1 North is much larger than from SAV1 East but this might be related to the smaller number of objects.

Category B is personal adornment like beads and amulets, making up 4% at SAV1 North, 2% at SAV1 East.

A quite diverse group is category C, household items including large rectangular stands and basin-like installations, but also mud sealings and other objects. At present, the percentage at SAV1 East is more than the double from SAV1 North (5.1% at SAV1 East, 2% at SAV1 North).

Tools and instruments are the largest group and have been labelled as category D. 60% of the finds from SAV1 North, 72% from SAV1 East fall into this set, comprising mostly stone tools like grinding stones and pounders but also re-used sherds.

A small number of stone and faience vessels represents category E, non-ceramic vessels (1% at SAV1 North, 3.5% at SAV1 East). Category F is again very diverse as it comprises models, games and unidentified pieces in various materials. Finally, a number of objects cannot be classified into categories A-F – these are e.g. slag fragments attesting to production processes which are common at both areas.

All in all, it is clear that the finds from SAV1 North and SAV1 East are very comparable and that there are only small differences, especially in terms of percentages of certain group of objects. A detailed contextual analysis, presenting associations between finds and a concise synchronic and diachronic assessment, still has to be established and is scheduled to be undertaken in the upcoming years.


Giddy, L. 1999. The Survey of Memphis II. Kom Rabica: the New Kingdom and Post-New Kingdom objects. Egypt Exploration Society Excavation Memoir 64. London.