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The origins and the use of the potters wheel in Ancient Egypt

Doherty, Sarah 2013. The origins and the use of the potters wheel in Ancient Egypt. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Despite many years work on the technology of pottery production by archaeologists it is perhaps surprising that the origins of the potter’s wheel in Egypt have yet to be determined. This present project seeks to rectify this situation by determining when the potter’s wheel was introduced to Egypt, establishing in what contexts wheel-made pottery occurs, and considering the reasons why the Egyptians introduced the wheel when a well-established handmade pottery industry already existed. The potter’s wheel is often thought to have originated in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium B.C. and subsequently its use spread to the Levant and Egypt, but little analysis has been undertaken as to why this occurred, or how its use came to be so widespread. Through a thorough analysis of all available sources, such as manufacturing marks on pottery, provenance potter’s wheels and depictions of potters in art and texts this thesis will assess the evidence for the introduction of the potter’s wheel. Through examining manufacturing marks on pottery and determining characteristics of wheel made marks by comparing them to experimental examples it is hoped a more complete view of when and in what manner the Egyptians were manufacturing their pottery vessels on the wheel will be gained. The potter’s wheel is arguably the most significant machine introduced into Egypt during the Old Kingdom, second only perhaps to the lever. This thesis concludes that the potter’s wheel was introduced to Egypt from the Levant during the reign of Pharoh Sneferu in the 4th dynasty (c.2600 B.C.). Sneferu or a member of his court sponsored their potters to use the elite-stone basalt potter’s wheel in and entirely new way, to throw pottery. The impact of this innovation would not just have affected the Egyptian potters themselves learning a new skill but also signalled the beginnings of a more complex and technologically advanced society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > DT Africa
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:17

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