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Trade and control of glass between New Kingdom Egypt and her neighbours

Nicholson, Paul Thomas ORCID: 2012. Trade and control of glass between New Kingdom Egypt and her neighbours. Presented at: Achievements and Problems of Modern Egyptology International Conference, Moscow, Russia, 29 September - 2 October 2009. Published in: Belova, Galina A. and Ivanov, Sergej V. eds. Achievements and Problems of Modern Egyptology: Book of Proceedings. Moscow: Centre for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (CESRAS), pp. 259-265.

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In recent years the study of glass in ancient Egypt has been a source of renewed interest and debate. For many years the reconstruction of the glassmaking process put forward by Petrie in his Tell el-Amarna (1894) has been regarded as holding good for the making of glass not only in Egypt but in the Near East as a whole. However, new work suggests that the picture of glassmaking and glassworking which Petrie drew is actually based on a conflation of evidence from several different locations at Amarna and that whilst his reconstruction is plausible it is also flawed. Examination of the finds made by Petrie, and now in museum collections, have led some scholars to conclude that glass could not have been made at Amarna, but that it was simply worked from raw materials imported to the site either from within, or more likely, beyond Egypt. The view that Petrie’s evidence is for the working of glass, rather than its making, have led some to question whether the E gyptians could have made their own glass at all during the New Kingdom, although — rather strangely — many accept the reconstruction of the glassmaking process as broadly correct. This question of the dependence or otherwise of Egypt on imported glass, and the mechanisms by which it was produced and traded form the substance of this paper. New excavations at Amarna, along with examination of Petrie’s original field notes, suggest a much different picture of glass production there, whilst excavations at Qantir have also altered our perspective on the question of production. These new findings are reviewed here and considered alongside the textual evidence for glass and representations of it from tomb and temple contexts in an attempt to reconstruct the position of glass within the social and trading milieu of the New Kingdom. This review of the evidence suggests that the traditional view of glass as a uniform product and one which was either made in or imported to Egypt is over-simplistic. The evidence suggests that there are different types of glass which may have been traded in different ways and whose production may have been subject to different degrees of control. The paper will suggest that it is possible to see that not only was glass a product which was made in Egypt during the New Kingdom, but that it was exported from Egypt, possibly on quite a large scale and in a controlled manner. It will also be suggested that the ability to manufacture glass within Egypt did not preclude the import of certain glasses from abroad.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Publisher: Centre for Egyptological Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (CESRAS)
ISBN: 9785904488031
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Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 10:15

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