A Potter’s Wheelhead from Askut and the Organization of the Egyptian Ceramic Industry in Nubia

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Stuart Tyson Smith

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Abstract

For the most part, the ceramic assemblage at Askut and the other Nubian fortresses tracks well with pottery from Egypt, and it is clear from the ubiquitous presence of pottery made from marl clays that ceramic vessels were regularly imported from Egyptian workshops in both Upper and Lower Egypt. Large-scale pottery production of Nile Silt vessels, however, is attested during the Middle Kingdom in the Nubian colony at both Mirgissa and Serra East. Wasters and unfired fragments of Nile Silt vessels from Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom contexts in the Southeast Sector at Askut demonstrate that smaller-scale production also existed in the colony. Additionally, a ceramic potter’s wheelhead, the actual flywheel/throwing surface as opposed to the wheel’s stone pivots, was recently identified from the late Middle Kingdom (Thirteenth Dynasty) deposits, the only one attested from Pharaonic Nubia and only the second from a Pharaonic Egyptian context. This evidence points towards a complex system of production and distribution that included industrial workshops at major sites complemented by localized production on a much smaller scale to meet local demand. Ceramic production on the scale seen at Askut would serve modest community needs for the fortress and perhaps the surrounding area in a multi-scalar system of ceramic production.

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