The 13th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics (EMAC) in Athens

Back again in Munich ‒ after three dense and highly inspiring days fully dedicated to the archaeometric study of pottery and ceramic materials at the 13th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics (EMAC) held in the Acropolis Museum in Athens from Sep. 24-26.
Fall has definitively arrived and the EMAC meeting successfully closed a very fruitful conference summer season, started in June with the AcrossBorders workshop “Settlements patterns in Egypt and Nubia” at the Egyptian State Museum in Munich ̶ and continued over the summer with the International Congress of Egyptology (ICE) in Florence and the International Congress for Young Egyptologists (ICYE) in Vienna.
Since I am not an Egyptologist and unfortunately not even so young anymore, I happily represented, as the archaeometric ceramic specialist in our team, the AcrossBorders project at the 13th EMAC in Athens with a poster co-authored by Julia Budka, Elena Garcea and Johannes Sterba. The title of our poster was: “Discrimination of Nile clay ceramic ware by geochemistry: three case studies from Sai Island (Northern Sudan)”.

The entrance of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, venue of the EMAC 2015.

The entrance of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, venue of the EMAC 2015.

This was the third time I personally attended the European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics (EMAC) which has already a fairly long tradition. The first EMAC took place in Rome in 1991 with the aim of gathering together different scholars working on ceramics in the Mediterranean regions.
Over the last three decades, the European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics (EMAC) has become established as an important international forum in the field of ancient ceramics with a particular attention to the development of new scientific methodologies and laboratory techniques applied to the study of ceramic materials.
Nowadays, the geographical focus of the EMAC is not restricted anymore just to the Mediterranean regions, but the topics of the conference have been greatly extended and include also several different European and non-European countries.
Also the time frame of the conference topics is always very broad, ranging from the early pottery productions dated to Prehistory till more recent evidences and case studies from the Iron Age up to Roman, Medieval and post-Medieval times.
However, what represents to me the principal reason for interest in this conference is the exceptional condition of having gathered together in the same room so many specialists working on archaeometry and ceramics either with a background as archaeologists, or as hard scientists in the fields of petrography, mineralogy, chemistry and geology.

More than 200 abstracts were submitted in this last EMAC 2015 of which 197 were accepted and allocated either to poster or oral sessions.
The scientific committee did a great job in organizing both the poster and the talks by following a dual policy in the definitions of the sessions ̶ on one hand organized according to the main topics (i.e. methodology, raw materials, pyrotechnical ceramics, building materials etc.), and on the other hand according to chronological and geographical criteria.

The auditorium hall in the Acropolis Museum.

The auditorium hall in the Acropolis Museum.

For the session “Methodology”, two very useful talks regarded the application of the portable XRF- analyser to archaeological ceramics: what is the good, the bad and reality about (by A.M.W Hunt and R.J. Speakman) and which are the new prospects for the archaeological studies (by M. Daszkiewicz et al.). Highly interesting was also the talk given by some colleagues from Vienna (A. Kern, T. Ntaflos and D. Arnitz) about the “Experimental verification of calcite dependent temperature determination”. Material of AcrossBorders from Sai Island was mentioned in the co-authored paper by I. Hein et al. on “Patron recognition with Gabor filter and K-nearest neighbor algorithm applied to archaeological ceramic materials.”

Several stimulating talks were also presented in the session “Early pottery production and mobility”, among them I want to point out the one by S. Amicone, P. Quinn et al. regarding the study of late Neolithic and early Calcolithic communities in the Balkans and the one given by M. Dikomitou-Eliadou, V. Kilikoglou et al. about the earliest cooking pots traditions in Cypro.

The poster session was simply spectacular both for the variety of topics, chronological and geographical contexts presented and for the beautiful sunny open-air setting in the garden of the British School at Athens. Moreover, a parallel virtual session provided a complementary platform for the poster presentations.

Open-air poster session at the British School in Athens.

Open-air poster session at the British School in Athens.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how both Egypt and Sudan were very well represented in several posters and through different ages.
Our poster (P-016) in the session “Raw material” presented three patterns of variability recognized in the composition of both raw clay material and tempers in Nile clay ceramics from Sai Island, by means of chemical (INAA) and petrographic (OM) analyses.
The results, organized in three distinct blocks, included 1) a diachronic analysis of the Nubian-style handmade wares from Prehistory till the New Kingdom age, 2) a comparison between the Nubian-style and the Egyptian-style New Kingdom ceramics and 3) a comparison between the Egyptian-style and the Real Egyptian imported New Kingdom wares.

Coffee breaks and lunches, of course based on local delicious Greek specialities, offered the opportunity for informal talks and meetings with new and old colleagues from different countries.
Finally, I took a bit of time for sightseeing and for discovering the city ̶ there is simply no chance to avoid archaeology in Athens: the whole city is plenty of wonderful archaeological buildings and museums you cannot escape.

View of the Acropolis 1

Discussing New Kingdom ceramics at Kerma

Huda Magzoub, Giulia D’Ercole and me just returned to Sai from a very successful ceramic meeting in Kerma. This was actually the third time that colleagues working on New Kingdom sites in Nubia gathered for a 2-day on-site workshop to discuss fabrics, wares, vessel typologies and much more. The first meeting was held on Sai Island in 2012, followed by a meeting in Amara West in 2013 and we are very grateful to the Swiss Mission working at Dukki Gel/Kerma directed by Charles Bonnet that they hosted this year’s meeting. Philippe Ruffieux, the mission’s ceramicist, organized a splendid meeting bringing together colleague from Tombos (Stuart Tyson Smith and Bruce Williams), Amara West (Anna Garnett and Alice Salvador) and Sai Island (the three of us).
We had the great chance to look at samples and sherds from all the sites under investigation – this time the very close parallels between newly excavated material from Dukki Gel and Sai were among the prime interests.

Our joint application of petrography (OM) and iNAA shows some significant differences between "Egyptian style" and "Egyptian" vessels from Sai - work in progress!

Our joint application of petrography (OM) and iNAA shows some significant differences between “Egyptian style” and “Egyptian” vessels from Sai – work in progress!

Giulia gave a brief update of our ongoing petrographical and chemical analyses of New Kingdom fabrics and clays from Sai. We tried to explain why we do think that some of the Nile clay vessels are real imports from Egypt (especially painted wares, cooking pots and small dishes), whereas the majority was of course produced locally in “Egyptian style” on the wheel. Unfortunately we are still missing any evidence for pottery kilns datable to the 18th Dynasty on Sai.
The highlight of our 2 days at Kerma was of course the tour led by Charles Bonnet through the excavations at Dukki Gel and the visit to the site museum!

Amazing tour with Charles Bonnet through his recent findings at Dukki Gel.

Amazing tour with Charles Bonnet through his recent findings at Dukki Gel.

Looking much forward to future meetings and a continuous fruitful exchange! I would like to express once more my gratitude to the Swiss mission hosting us during a very busy (and hot) week of their own fieldwork – very much appreciated!

Discussing ceramics from Sai Island and other Nubian sites

I am very happy to welcome our colleague Huda Magzoub, Antiquities Inspector of NCAM, who has worked with us on Sai in the past years, in Austria! Huda will join us next week at the International Conference for Nubian Studies in Neuchatel, Switzerland and we took this opportunity to hold a small workshop in Vienna, bringing together the AcrossBorders team members.

P1020968aAfter some general discussion of our 2014 field season, we focused on ceramics from Sai. The enigmatic fire dogs, currently studied by Nicole Mosiniak, were talked over again: we watched the movies we made during our weekend at Asparn and explained to Huda our ideas based on the experiment of cooking with fire dogs. We all agreed that additional work will have to be done, hopefully also more experiments – it seems obvious that the function of the fire dogs is still not understood on a satisfying level: Sai Island and the large amount of fire dogs from the New Kingdom town has much potential in this respect!

FD cooking

It is POSSIBLE to place pots on our fire dogs…


… but it’s not very convincing! Huda was thinking about alternative arrangements…







Giulia gave a short summary of our present understanding of the fabrics from Sai, based on recent iNAA and petrography.

P1020972aIn the afternoon, we practiced the documentation of pottery vessels with registration forms and the database. We discussed here some examples from the Sudan National Museum in Khartoum – Huda is currently working on the New Kingdom material from old excavations, for example at Buhen, Mirgissa and other places. Some vessels provide very interesting parallels to our material from Sai. Without doubt, it will be an important contribution to Nubian archaeology to present ceramics from former excavations with an updated knowledge, adding specifics about the wares and fabrics and the dating.

Furthermore, Arvi passed on some of his experience of drawing pottery. Ela Bielat, who will be joining us for fieldwork in Elephantine, practiced together with Daniela the drawing of sherds while Jördis enjoyed illustrating exemplary small finds. With Huda among us, it really felt as we are back to the field and lab at Sai!

P1020978aAll in all, today was not only a perfect closing of our summer break: Summarizing AcrossBorders’ achievements of the last two years and preparing for the upcoming work at Elephantine and Sai, was ideal for all of us – the group which will be travelling to Neuchatel next week, but also the team members who will stay behind and continue with their individual tasks.

The long-lasting ceramic tradition on Sai Island

It is well known that Sai Island has been occupied by various cultural groups from Palaeolithic times onwards – illustrating the good living conditions and also a favourable strategic position in the Nile valley which resulted in the importance of the site during the Kerma period and the New Kingdom.

The large Kerma cemetery in the southern part of Sai Island.

The large Kerma cemetery in the southern part of Sai Island.

Even if AcrossBorders is focusing on the period of the Egyptian presence on Sai Island, I was always keen to set our ideas and studies into a larger context, the diachronic development of the site throughout the millennia. Therefore I am very happy that Elena Garcea, working since many years on the Prehistory of Sai, was willing to cooperate with my project and we can thus tackle interesting aspects of local and also regional phenomena within a very broad timeframe.

Elena Garcea at work on Sai Island (field season 2013).

Elena Garcea at work on Sai Island (field season 2013).

The perfect opportunity to present some of our ongoing research on pottery production came up with the 14th Congress of the Pan African Archaeological Association for Prehistory and Related Studies, hosted from July 14-18 by the University of the Witwatersrand at Johannesburg, South Africa.


Our paper aims to illustrate that in Nubia (Northern Sudan) pottery making has a very ancient tradition with long-lasting aspects of production techniques and raw materials. We will present a comparative study on diverse Nubian ceramic assemblages from Sai Island, covering a period of over 5000 years: from prehistoric times (Khartoum Variant, Abkan and Pre-Kerma) until the New Kingdom period (especially Dynasty 18).

slide 4 archaeometryThe pottery data are presented according to both stylistic and technological aspects, taking into account the entire manufacturing sequence, from the raw material procurement to the firing of the vessels. In order to address the different archaeological questions, macroscopic and analytical approaches have been combined, by means of petrographic (OM) and chemical (XRF and INAA) analyses.[1]

We do believe that the ceramic production reflects aspects of the general development of economic choices and corresponding lifestyles. Much research has still to be undertaken, but the first results, especially deriving from the INAA, are very promising! We are very much looking forward to the conference and in particular to feedback from our colleagues working in different areas of Africa!

[1] We are very grateful to the Center for Earth Sciences of the University of Vienna for its support concerning the petrography (thin sections and OM), especially to Dieter Mader and Claudia Beybel. We also wish to thank the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics, Vienna for the INAA and here first of all Johannes Sterba who is doing a great job working with our Sai Island samples! For some analyses of the Prehistoric samples we are also very thankful to the Department of Earth and Geoenvironmental Sciences, University of Bari, Italy, especially to Giacomo Eramo and Italo M. Muntoni.

From Abri, Sudan to Asparn, Austria: experimenting with ancient recipes for making pottery

In January, during the 2014 field season, together with Huda Magzoub – our inspector of NCAM – and Erich Draganits – the geologist of the project – we went for a one-day excursion to the pottery workshop in Abri (1). Our purpose was to interview the two modern potters working there and collecting information concerning the manufacturing sequence of the vessels they produce for the people of the village and surroundings. air max tn
Talking with them, we learned they produce every year many kinds of vessels (i.e. large jars for storing the water, cooking pots and vessels for milk production), following a traditional recipe. This recipe,however,will vary according to the specific function and performance of use of the respective vessels.

They explained to us, for example, that for the zir (water storage vessel) they prefer to use  as the raw material a soil collected in the inland, far from the river banks: this soil is less hard and compact compared to the proper Nile silt and therefore more suitable for the production of such large vessels that have to be porous and also light in order to be movable. air max 90s
In addition, the modern potters seem partially to differentiate also the tempers they add to the clay: they select intentionally the dung from goat or sheep for the small pots, while the one from donkey is preferable for making larger vessels.

The variables in terms of clayey raw material and tempers we observed in the nowadays pottery production at Abri may explain some minor technological differences we also notice in our New Kingdom assemblage from Sai Island and especially in the organic-rich Nubian fabrics.
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Three full days (26/06-28/06) of experimental archaeology at the “MAMUZ” open-air Museum in Asparn (Lower Austria), organized thanks to the kind cooperation of our colleagues from the University of Vienna (especially the archaeologists and prehistorians responsible for the experimental archaeology class: among others Stefan Eichert, Mathias Mehofer and Hans Reschreiter – the latter with the initial idea for us to join!), were the perfect occasion to test our ideas and impressions, playing a bit with clay and tempers in order to experiment by ourselves the ancient pottery recipes!

One of our experimental projects in Asparn (the other one concentrated on fire dogs and their possible function) was dedicated to the production of small clay test tablets (c. 9 x 9 cm) using different kind of clay and tempers we collected in situ at Sai Island.

As a raw material, we employed two different samples of clay (labelled clay “type A” and “type B”) collected at different locations of the island. As a tempers we used: sand, caliche, charcoal and dung from goat, cow and donkey from Sai Island plus a sample of horse dung from Austria. new balance womens

Preparing the temper - dung from donkey.

Preparing the temper – dung from donkey.

We prepared the test tablets following an accurate protocol, taking notes of all the relevant scientific steps: from the preparation of the clayey raw material and tempers (STEP 1) to the production/forming of the tablets (STEP 2) and then to the drying (STEP 3) and the firing (STEP 4) phases. air max 180

Mixing the clay with water.

Mixing the clay with water.

All in all, 17 test tablets were realized of which: eight were produced using the clay “type A” in combination with the different set of tempers and eight using the clay “type B” with the same tempers (for each series one tablet was made only with clay). In addition, a further tablet was realized with clay “type B” by adding a larger amount of dung from donkey.

Clay type A and dung from goat.

Clay type A and dung from goat.

Vera and Nicole forming the tablets.

Vera and Nicole forming the tablets.

The tablets were weighted during the production and then after the drying and the firing to check how much water they lost.

Our test tablets.

Our test tablets.

Our next step will consist in analyzing them by iNAA and also in preparing thin sections to be studied under the microscope!

Looking forward for the results, we already learned a lot from this experience and had so much fun working together!

Many thanks go first of all again to our colleagues and to all students of the experimental archaeology class of the University of Vienna, to Vera and Ludwig Albustin who have been of invaluable help in preparing the clay and much more! Thanks also to the AcrossBorders’ team: Julia Budka, Nicole Mosiniak, Jördis Vieth and Arvi Korhonen. We did a great team job, sharing for three days the joys and also the pains of being potters!

Having fun in Asparn...

Having fun in Asparn…

The hard life of a potter...

The hard life of a potter…

(1) A comparable excursion was already done by our colleagues working at Amara West – the pottery specialists Marie Millet and Michela Spartaro also used the valuable information provided by the modern potters and included modern clay samples into their scientific analysis. See the recent paper: M. Spataro, M. Millet & N. Spencer, The New Kingdom settlement of Amara West (Nubia, Sudan): mineralogical and chemical investigation of the ceramics, in: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 2014, esp. fig. 4 (

Post-excavation working steps in Vienna

Back in Vienna, all of us are engaged with several tasks, most of them of course connected with the field season 2014.

I am still busy with finalising reports and accounts, hoping to finish the administrative aftermath of the season as soon as possible!

Giulia is particularly occupied as we brought a large number of ceramics samples to Vienna, thanks to the kind permission of NCAM. Two sets of new samples are already prepared for iNAA – Johannes Sterba and his colleague at the Atominstitut have been most efficiently as usual! Tomorrow we have an appointment at the Geozentrum in order to arrange the next thin sections – we are in particular focusing this time on Nubian fine wares (Black topped cups and beakers) and Egyptian wheel-made cooking pots. The latter are most likely real Egyptian products in a very sandy Nile E variant – of course this macroscopic assessment has to be checked by petrographic and chemical analysis.

Ceramic samples from Sai selected for thin sections.

Ceramic samples from Sai selected for thin sections.

Jördis is currently updating our literature database – a number of very important articles have been published recently. Especially stimulating and a must-read for all interested in Nubian archaeology is the special new issue of the Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections! A particular inspiring paper by Neal Spencer on “Creating and Re-Shaping Egypt in Kush: Responses at Amara West” corresponds nicely to AcrossBorders’ focus and aims.

The literature database is growing - counting already more than 750 entries!

The literature database is growing – counting already more than 800 entries!

Nadia is working on the samples of animal bones we took from Sai to Vienna – it’s a nice collection from SAV1 North, from Levels 5-3, thus datable to Dynasty 18.

SAV1 North is also the prime task for Florence – she is currently integrating her new data about the architecture gathered at the site in February with the previous documentation from earlier years.

Elke has started again with digitalising new pottery drawings and Daniela is helping me with the database of the small finds – focusing on the new objects from SAV1 West and reworking some of the photographs.

Preparing photos in reduced scale for the object database.

Preparing photos in reduced scale for the object database.

It’s hard to believe that we left Sai Island already more than a month ago – but all the data collected there will keep us busy during the next months!

Excursion to Abri: comparing ancient and modern pottery traditions

The scientific analyses of the first set of samples from the last Field Season (SIAM Mission 2013) are almost concluded in Vienna and the preliminary processing of the data has already shown some very interesting and intriguing results. new balance running shoes
During the current season my main task is primarily selecting new ceramic specimens for the next analyses – having a large set of samples appears extremely important especially for the chemical results in order to improve the statistical reliability of the data! Beside many different New Kingdom wares (Egyptian and Local Nile clays, Nubian fabrics, Marl clays and Imports from Canaan, the Levant and the Oases) from the excavation areas SAV1 North, East and West within the Pharaonic town, we selected also some modern traditional ceramics to be used as comparative samples for the ancient production.

For this reason we went to the near-by city of Abri last week: Huda, our inspector of NCAM, and also Erich joined me – as a geologist Erich is also interested in seeing where the modern potters collect the raw material for their vessels. kids air max 95
Not so far away from the centre of the village and from the area of the market there is in fact an intact ceramic workshop where a family of modern potters (‘bagadra’) still produce different kind of vessels according to a traditional recipe handed down from one generation to another!

Potters Abri Potter at the wheel small

Thanks to Huda (for this occasion our personal interpreter!) we had the unique opportunity to interview the potters and to ask them about their job, the function of the vessels and the manufacturing process! air max griffey
The pots are wheel-made (on a slow wheel), even though the upper part of the vessel is sometimes finished by coiling. Before the firing, they are put for 2-3 days upside down in the sand and then left some more days under the sun till they become completely dry.

Over 50 vessels are produced and then sold to Abri, Sai, Ernetta and even to Khartoum every month! This production consists mainly in large jars (zir) used for containing and keeping cool water,  but they also make smaller vessels (e. g. milk/mish jars), cooking pots (hala), flower pots, incense burners and so on! nike free reviews
In addition, what appears really interesting is that the potters seem partially to differentiate their ‘recipe’ (in terms of choice of clayey raw material and tempers), according to the specific function and the performance required by the vessel!

We learnt a lot from this conversation and we came back home very inspired bringing with us some nice ceramic pieces kindly offered by the potters – they have been already documented and will be soon submitted for the next laboratory analyses!

SAI_4721Abri sample

On the road between Lille, London, Vienna and Berlin

On the roadThe last two weeks have been full of travelling and meetings, not in Egypt as originally planned, but here in Europe – the excellent Table ronde at Lille, a brilliant Kirwan Memorial Lecture by Vivian Davies at London, meetings with team members and future collaborators here in Vienna, planning for the next field season at Sai Island and placing orders for various equipment. Tonight, I hope to head for Vienna Airport the very last time in September – going to Berlin and picking up equipment, materials and my SUV there. Back to Vienna by car early next week – insha’allah!

As Giulia reported, all is progressing very well, thanks to the support of our colleagues, in both the Center for Earth Sciences with studying finished thin sections and preparing the new ones and in the Atomic Institute where we will get the NAA results of the first group of samples at the end of this month. Giulia will then start to compare her petrographic observations with the data deriving from the chemical analysis.

Florence has also joined the Table ronde at Lille – she is making good progress in assessing the building phases of SAV1 North; and I am concentrating right now (whenever there is time besides all the travelling & organizational work…) on the ceramic sequence from this site. In the upcoming field season 2014 we will not only continue in SAV1 East and open a new excavation area, but will also focus on studying the small finds, tools and different materials like animal bones from SAV1 North aiming to present a concise analysis of its architecture and functional aspects within the New Kingdom town in due time. It will be in particular relevant to understand aspects of the internal organization and to test whether functionally diverse quarters existed within the town enclosure.

Preparing samples for Neutron Activation Analysis

Time really goes by… not just for us but also for our dear ceramic samples. Not too long ago they were still hidden under the warm sun of Sudan in the nice setting of Sai Island. Since then, they have passed through the hands of different people and they have been – in turn – been photographed, drawn, recorded in our File Maker database and, finally, selected for the different laboratory analysis.
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At the end of July, thanks to our cooperation with the Departments of Lithospheric Research and of Geodynamics and Sedimentology and the great work done by Claudia Beybel at the ‘Dünnschlifflabor’, we successfully managed to conclude the preparation of the thin sections for a first group of 36 ceramics. Just today, we submitted the second group of 24 samples to the lab – so we will have a total of 60 thin sections for petrographic studies.

After the summer break, the first group of samples were taken to the Institute of Atomic and Subatomic Physics (AI) for the Neutron Activation Analysis. Johannes Sterba, Ing.Dr.  will be my scientific supervisor at the AI, introducing me to the wonderful world of INAA. He has not only a lot of experience in NAA and chemical analyses on ceramic materials, but also in working with archaeologists and ceramics from Egypt and the Levant.
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Under his supervision, I have prepared all the samples and on Friday August 23 Johannes put them in the machine ‒ so by the end of September we will hopefully have the first results! Waiting for them, I will share some of my experience about the preparation of the samples, illustrated by pictures taken in the lab.

Step 1 – Sampling strategy

Example for grinding the sample in the agata mortar.

Example for grinding the sample in the agata mortar.

Drilling one of the samples.

Drilling one of the samples.

Some of the prepared samples.

Some of the prepared samples.

One of the main advantages of INAA is that you need only very few grams of powder for each sample!

For most of our ceramic samples we just selected the small chips produced after the break for the thin section and ground them in an agate mortar to obtain a fine and homogeneous powder. This procedure takes only few minutes, but then you have to clean carefully both the mortar and the pestle in order to avoid any contamination between the samples (and an agate mortar can be quite heavy to hold and to carry…).

Seven potsherds were sampled by drilling, carefully avoiding the slip and/or the painting!

The obtained powder is temporarily collected in small plastic containers.






Step 2 – Weighing the powder

After one night in the oven at 90 °C, the sample is weighted by means of a precision balance (we need about 100 mg of powder) and transferred into pure silica vials. Both the vials and the spoon used for this operation are very small and thin. This is a good training both for your nerves and your hands (better not drink too much coffee before!)

The precision balance for weighting the powder.

The precision balance for weighting the powder.

Step 3 – Sealing the vials by fire

Before going into the reactor and to be irradiated, all the vials must be sealed. This operation is quite delicate and, at the same time, extremely important: poor seals will cause samples to open during irradiation! The sealing is made by fire, using a soldering iron arrangement in the same laboratory in which the samples were prepared. Once finished, we used an engraving tool to write the number of the sample on the side of each vial.

Important step: sealing the vials by fire.

Important step: sealing the vials by fire.

At this point everything is ready to start with the irradiation… just the time for our small samples to ‘rest’ a little bit immersed into a pure water solution!

Sealed sample within pure water solution.

Sealed sample within pure water solution.

Re-assigning Marls as Mixed clays?

Few days ago, preparing our sherds for the cutting of the thin sections, we stumbled across two samples (SAV/S 57 and SAV/S 59), previously classified as “marl D”. With a fresh break, they appeared a little bit peculiar compared to the others classified as this well established Egyptian fabric. Therefore we wondered if they actually were something different from a marl D (being aware of the variations within this group, cf. Rose 2007: 14-15), as for example a mixed clay, attested at other New Kingdom sites like Elephantine and Memphis (see Aston 1999: 6; Budka 2005: 94-95; Bourriau 2010: 27-28, G6b).

This ‘suspicion’ seems now to be confirmed by means of the microscopic observation of the thin section!

SAVS 57 blog

SAV/S 57

Under the thin calcareous layer forming the white slip of the vessel, both of these samples disguised a quite ferruginous matrix, surrounding by numerous silicate minerals as quartz and feldspar (mainly plagioclase). Among others, the non-plastic inclusions included: Fe-oxides, biotite and muscovite mica, clino-pyroxenes and possibly volcanic rock fragments plus scattered clay pellets. In addition, small to medium calcareous inclusions were identified in the framework – but in a significant lower amount than in the proper marl D fabric.

SAV/S 29

SAV/S 29

SAV/S 57 and 59 show a very fine and homogeneous texture and few shrinkage cracks. In contrast, some of the marl D samples (for example SAV/S 29) are characterized by a high secondary porosity.

Taken together, the present data suggests that both SAV/S 57 and SAV/S 59 are likely to be either a mixture of Nile and Marl clays, or even pure Nile silts containing a small percentage of limestone particles (cf. Bourriau 2010: 24, G6a)! Forthcoming chemical analyses will allow us to confirm (or modify) this idea looking at the bulk composition and at the comparison between the samples!

SAV/S 59

SAV/S 59

By now we can just stress once again the usefulness of such kind of scientific interdisciplinary approach and the advantages that may derive from combining macroscopic observations and analytical methods in the study of the ceramic materials.



Aston 1999 = D. A. Aston, Pottery from the Late New Kingdom to the Early Ptolemaic Period, Elephantine XIX, AV 95, Mainz am Rhein.

Bourriau 2010 = J. Bourriau, The Survey of Memphis IV. Kom Rabia: The New Kingdom Pottery, Excavation Memoir 93, London.

Budka 2005 = J. Budka, XII. Zur Keramik des Neuen Reiches – erste Beobachtungen anhand des Materials aus der Oststraße B II, in G. Dreyer et al., Stadt und Tempel von Elephantine, 31./32. Grabungsbericht, in MDAIK 61, 2005, 90–116.

Rose 2007 = P. J. Rose, The Eighteenth Dynasty Pottery Corpus from Amarna, Excavation Memoir 83, London.