Pre-dynastic Ceramics: A Few Thoughts From Class Discussions

Regarding the past few weeks discussion regarding pre-dynastic Egypt, I am intrigued by the discussions in class about the ceramics that make up much of the archaeological record of the sites in lower and upper Egypt.  The images detailing the shapes, styles, and storage pits of the ceramics throughout the various sites presented so far leave me to thoughts as to the everyday use of the various pots, and the social organization of their use. 

For example, what denoted one pot from another in terms of being used as a liquid transporter, or vice versa a solid transporter?  Could some pots be used for both interchangeably?  Naturally, one would assume that certain styles and sizes of potteries would be preferred for certain goods, but that would be not likely universal amongst both the lower and upper Egypt polities and across the pre-dynastic periods.  Social status may also have determined what a pot was used for, as a more influential person may have had separate pots for every good they required stored, while the lesser influential may have had to use a single pot for what little they could store. 

Furthermore, how were certain goods, such as beer, wine, and other liquids would be kept stored for long periods, particularly in the storage pits in sites such as Ma’adi.  I ponder as to how the pots may have been sealed, possibly with some sort of sealant made of animal or plant matter.  If so, is there evidence of such sealants amongst the archaeological record?  For solid goods, were some stored within liquids to preserve them as well, or were the pots themselves stored within materials such as mud to preserve the goods they held?

The storage pits themselves intrigue me in terms of the way pots were arranged in them.  Was there particular layouts for solid or liquid goods?  Were some storage pits built specifically to store certain pots, whether it be due to size, contents, or style (as in, pots styled after another polity local or foreign that may have been part of a trading system)?  If so, what made a storage pit suitable for certain goods?  Perhaps depth of the pit, range of expose to light and other elements, and ease of access determined which goods went to which storage pit, particularly in sites with strong evidence of trading.

Naturally, not all of my questions can be answered, but I hope that perhaps some have already been, and that the work at the various pre-dynastic sites of Egypt make continue to reveal more.

Leave a Reply