Ancient Roman pottery workshop discovered in Egypt

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered an ancient pottery workshop – with remains of rounded vessels, coins, figurines and even a ‘ritual hall’ – dating to the early Roman period at Tabba Matouh, west of Alexandria.

Ancient workers mainly used the site to make amphoras – two-handed vessels with a neck narrower than the main body that were used for storing and transporting goods such as oil and grain, according to the University of Oxford Classical Art Research Center.

Archaeologists from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities discovered a number of buildings at the site, including a workshop containing a group of kilns. Two of them were carved into the rock and one remains in excellent condition, the department announced in a translated statement.

Related: Why did the ancient Egyptian pharaohs stop building pyramids?

During the Byzantine era (330 to 1453 AD), long after ceramic production at the site ended, the buildings were likely used for other purposes: lime production, said Mustafa Waziri, general secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, in the press release. Archaeologists have also discovered tombs, with burial holes carved into the rock, suggesting the site was later used as a cemetery during the medieval period. One of the graves contained the remains of a pregnant woman.

A view of the site of Tabba Matouh, west of Alexandria, Egypt (Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities)

Archaeologists also discovered a storage room, which contained cooking utensils and crockery. A number of limestone buildings were most likely used as temporary residences for site workers. A room was discovered with a raised platform and the remains of terracotta statues, suggesting it was probably used for rituals. Some of these statues represent the god Harpocrates, the juvenile form of the falcon-headed god Horus. Another room that had stoves and the remains of amphoras containing preserved fish bones was most likely used for cooking and selling food, the statement said.

The site dates back to early Roman times Egyptwhich began in 30 BC. J.-C. after the defeat of Antoine and Octave by the future Roman emperor. Cleopatraaccording to Metropolitan Museum of Art At New York. Following the Roman conquest, Egypt became a very prosperous Roman province which supplied the rest of the Roman Empire with a variety of handicrafts including pottery. “Pottery is the most common artifact recovered through excavation and investigation of Roman sites [in ancient Egypt]“, wrote Scott Gallimore, an archaeologist from Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada who was not involved in the new excavations, in a 2010 article for the Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists.

The archaeological team also unearthed a number of smaller items from the site, such as firewood, small statues, animal bones and a number of coins bearing the likeness of Cleopatra and Alexander The Greataccording to Heritage Daily. An amulet of the ancient Egyptian god Bes and a feathered crown associated with Bes were also discovered. Bes was considered the god of music, merriment and childbirth, according to the Egyptian Museum of the Rose-Croix in California. Fish hooks and a boat’s anchor were also among the finds.

Originally posted on Live Science.

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