Storage Vessel with Painted Decoration
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
Available materials, construction technique, and even social status all played a role in the manufacture of pottery.
Most ancient Egyptian towns had at least one skilled potter who served the entire community. Palaces, estates, and temples employed dozens of craftsmen to fashion luxury and ritual wares.
Potters used two principal materials: alluvial silt (soil deposited by the floodwaters of the Nile) and soft desert shale called marl. Silt contains iron oxides and fires red; marl, rich in calcium carbonate, fires to a buff color. To make both clays more workable, potters added straw, crushed stone, or pulverized pottery.
Potters constructed vessels by hand or on a wheel. Hand building involved shaping the clay manually and with simple tools. To create vessels on a wheel, artisans rotated the clay rapidly on a low, flat turntable and let centrifugal force pull it into shape. Spiral marks, evident on several examples in this case, indicate wheel manufacture.
ca. 1479-1425 B.C.E.
14 9/16 x Diam. 7 1/16 in. (37 x 17.9 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Esna, Egypt (Ramessid); 1907, excavated by Henri de Morgan for the Brooklyn Museum.
Storage Vessel with Painted Decoration, ca. 1479-1425 B.C.E. Clay, pigment, 14 9/16 x Diam. 7 1/16 in. (37 x 17.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 07.447.448. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.07.447.448_NegL1010_5_print_bw.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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How did these vessels with pointed bottoms stay upright in ancient Egypt?
We get that question often. Vessels like this one may have stood in specially designed racks with openings to hold those pointed bottoms. They also may have been placed in holes dug into earth floors, or simply have been leaned against walls.
You'll notice the color blue on many objects in this gallery. For the ancient Egyptians, blue symbolized water, necessary for all forms of life, and especially crucial in a desert climate!