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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : Ptolemaic Period Faience Jar
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Ptolemaic Period Faience Jar - X.0003
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 3 rd Century BC to 1 st Century BC
Dimensions: 11.125" (28.3cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Faience

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: United States
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Faience, which dates back to pre-dynastic times, of at least 5,000 years, is a glasslike non-clay substance made of materials common to Egypt: ground quartz, crushed quartz pebbles, flint, a soluble salt-like baking soda, lime and ground copper, which provided the characteristic color. The dried objects went into kilns looking pale and colorless but emerged a sparkling "Egyptian blue." Called tjehnet by the ancient Egyptians, meaning that which is brilliant or scintillating, faience was thought to be filled with the undying light of the sun, moon and stars and was symbolic of rebirth. Ancient Egyptians believed the small blue-green objects helped prepare them for eternity in the afterlife.

The profile of this faience jar belongs to a tradition which is first attested during the so- called Third Phase of the Late Dynastic Period. As such it represents a variation of the type and is characterized by horizontal bands of rills which some have suggested are in imitation of metal prototypes. These examples are generally dated to the Ptolemaic Period. The ostensible dependency of our faience example on these pottery vessels suggests that it, too, should be assigned to the Ptolemaic Period. Complete parallels in faience are, however, very rare, although sherds dated to that period may be compared to the ornamentation of our vessel in general. Such ornamentation continues into the Roman Imperial Period. One can, therefore, suggest that our vase is a very rare example of a faience jar created during the Ptolemaic Period which consciously evokes contemporary vases in metal. The literary tradition documents the opulence of such deluxe metal vessels, often created in gold and silver, which graced the court of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt and so impressed Julius Caesar when he first encountered the legendary Cleopatra VII. Our example is evocative of such creations, but these have not, unfortunately, survived.


For the types, see, Peter French, “A Preliminary Study of Pottery in Lower Egypt in the Late Dynastic and Ptolemaic Periods,” in Pascal Ballet [editor], Cahiers de la céramique égyptienne. Ateliers de potiers et productions céramiques en Egypte (Cairo 1992), pages 89-92; for the association of such rilled-decoration with metal prototypes, see, Dorothea Arnold, Techniques and Traditions of Manufacture in the Pottery of Ancient Egypt. Fascicle 1 (Mainz 1993), pages 82-83, with figure 96C; and for the parallels in the form of sherds, see, London, University College UC45363 (not published) and UC 47498: W.M. Flinders Petrie, Historical Studies I (London 1911), pages 34-38.

- (X.0003)


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