Monday, June 04, 2012

Making ancient Egyptian faience

Egypt at the Manchester Museum (Campbell Price)

With photos.

Yesterday, I joined a team from the Caer Alyn Archaeological Heritage Project (CAAHP) as they attempted to recreate the ancient Egyptian art of faience production. Faience is a glazed non-clay ceramic material, composed mainly of crushed quartz or sand, with small amounts of lime and either natron or plant ash. The characteristic blue colour of Egyptian faience comes from a copper compound added to this mixture. Once fired, a thick glaze forms on the surface.

At the Manchester Museum we have around 2500 objects made of Egyptian faience, including one of my favourites – a bright blue libation cup of Nesi-khonsu, from the Deir el-Bahri royal cache. The material was widely used for vessels, shabtis, jewellery and amulets throughout the pharaonic period. In creating our new Ancient Worlds galleries we want to explain how this very attractive material – called tjehenet or ‘dazzling’ by the ancient Egyptians – was made.

In January I met Alan Brown of Daresbury Laboratory, who told me about his work recreating ancient kilns and his interest in ancient Egypt. 

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