image/svg+xml37XII/1/2021INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euOn the Tracks of Aswan Pink Clay. New Studies on the Local Clay Deposits in the Region of Aswan/Upper EgyptLaura Rembart1, Lisa Betina2*1Austrian Archaeological Institute, Franz Klein-Gasse 1, 1190 Vienna, Austria2Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, Karen Blixens Plads 8, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark1. IntroductionOne of the most important ceramic production centres of the post-Pharaonic period in ancient Egypt is situated in the Aswan region in Upper Egypt and it was specialised in the manufacture of ceramic artefacts made of so-called “Pink Clay”. Modern Aswan is synonymous with the ancient cities of Syene and Elephantine, which evolved into a political and economic centre around the frst Nile cataract already in the Ptolemaic period. Geographically, Syene represents the southernmost town in the Ptolemaic empire and subsequently in the Roman Empire. This prominent position, along with the nearby island of Elephantine, was of particular signifcance with respect to, for example, the exchange of goods with Nubia to the south, and trade with the well-known rose granite extracted from local quarries since Pharaonic times. The granite was distributed northwards through the river ports of both Syene and Elephantine.Syene thus fourished, particularly due to the trade, and reached an economic upturn in Hellenistic times, which is recognizable by the expansion of the inhabited city area. Elephantine was famous in Pharaonic times primarily because of its religious cult sites around the annual Nile food. In the 5thcentury CE, the temple areas were successively released for secular development and the island remained – despite the conquest of Upper Egypt by the Arabs in 642 CE – continuously inhabited until the early Islamic period.In 2011, the Austrian Science Fund-Project “Housing in Antiquity in Syene/Elephantine, Upper Egypt” directed by S. Ladstätter at the Austrian Archaeological Institute (OeAI) in cooperation with the Swiss Institute for Archaeological and Architectural Research on Ancient Egypt in Cairo (SIK) was begun. The main goal of this three-year project was a socio-cultural interpretation of Syene and Elephantine from the Late Ptolemaic period until late antiquity, based on the material legacy from diferent residential buildings. The pottery fnds from Syene originate from excavations in Area 2 and Area 13c. In both areas residential buildings were uncovered which were used continuously from the Ptolemaic period to at least the middle Roman Imperial period; residential buildings with adjoining courtyards for household activities along narrow alleys have been uncovered, which have been rebuilt several times in the course of time. The pottery from Elephantine comes from residential complexes, Volume XII     ●     Issue 1/2021     ●     Pages 37–44*Corresponding author. E-mail: lisa.peloschek@gmail.comARTICLE INFOArticle history:Received: 9thSeptember 2020Accepted: 28thJanuary 2021DOI: words:Egyptpottery productionkaolinitic claygeological feldworkABSTRACTUsing Ptolemaic to late antiquity pottery assemblages from Aswan (ancient Syene) as a case study, we demonstrate the imperative nature of petrographic analyses combined with geological feld surveys when investigating ancient potting centres. The combination of archaeological (i.e.abundance of ceramics, vessel shapes etc.), macroscopic and natural-scientifc methods allows the reconstruction of the possible extraction areas of clays utilised in Aswan, Upper Egypt. Knowledge of specifc clays and their compositional characteristics helps to establish archaeometric reference groups, necessary for diferentiating kaolinitic clay sediments of the Aswan area from similar geological environments further down the Nile valley.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/1 ● 37–44Laura Rembart, Lisa Betina: On the Tracks of Aswan Pink Clay. New Studies on the Local Clay Deposits in the Region of Aswan/Upper Egypt38so-called tower houses, which were built in the area of the former temple of Chnum in the 5thcentury CE and were in use until the end of the 7thcentury (Figure 1).Petrographic analysis of the pottery was an essential component of the project in order to diferentiate imported vessels from those produced in the local potteries of Aswan and its surroundings. Focus was hereby on ceramics macroscopically assigned to “Pink Clay”, for which only a handful of references are available up to now. Petrographic signatures of the clay have been generated and a certain diversity in the mineral and rock inclusions noted, allowing the identifcation of four Aswan Pink Clay-variants.In the following we report on a geological survey that has been conducted with the aim to identify potential source areas of these characteristic clays. Besides the collection of clay samples, the collection and subsequent analysis of rock samples was of particular signifcance, as in thin-section the mineral constituents and quantities of individual minerals in the rocks can be identifed. Can traces of such rock fragments be found in the clays sampled in the region? Can traces of such rock fragments and their mineral compounds be detected in ancient pottery fragments? Most importantly, can the origin of Aswan Pink Clay from kaolinite weathered from granite be confrmed?2. State of research, methodology and theoretical approachIn 2009, the recording of the pottery fnds was initiated; some of the excavated layers consisted exclusively of ceramics, which meant that huge amounts of material were gathered. The pottery recording was carried out in several campaigns in Aswan and was limited on site to the fnd statistics, in which all fragments were counted and statistically registered. Furthermore, the ceramics have been graphically and photographically documented, and diagnostic pieces described in a Microsoft Accessdatabase containing all the relevant information, such as measurements, ceramic fabrics and decoration.A total of nearly 200,000 pottery fragments were recorded statistically. Of these 5% were included in the database as diagnostic fragments – considered as such were rim and base fragments, as well as wall fragments with decoration, and also body sherds of imported pottery. These diagnostic fragments were assigned to the respective ware groups. In this regard, the material from Syene can be diferentiated into tableware, coarseware, kitchenware, transport amphorae and lamps (Rembart, 2020).For decades, the “Vienna System” has been used for the classifcation of Egyptian ceramics on a macroscopic level (basic reading: Arnold and Bourriau, 1993; Bourriau et al., 2000; Nordström and Bourriau, 1993). However, this system was developed for the description of Pharaonic ceramics from a limited number of archaeological sites and is therefore difcult to use for the Ptolemaic, Roman and late antiquity ceramic fabrics of Upper Egypt. For this reason, we deliberately refrained from using the Vienna System when processing the pottery from Syene and Elephantine and instead developed a guidance system based on new criteria, primarily considering the clays’ mineral and rock