image/svg+xml299XII/2/2021INTERDISCIPLINARIA ARCHAEOLOGICANATURAL SCIENCES IN ARCHAEOLOGYhomepage: http://www.iansa.euThematic ReviewThe Introduction of the Potter’s Wheel to Ancient SudanSarah K. Doherty1*1Department of Continuing Education, University of Oxford, Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, United Kingdom1. Introduction: The potter’s wheel in EgyptThe potter’s wheel is now generally considered to have originated in Mesopotamia in the 5thmillennium BC and subsequently its use spread to the Levant and Egypt (Baldi and Roux, 2016; Freestone and Gaimster, 1997, p.15; Kuhrt, 1995, p.22; Pollock, 1999, p.5; Simpson, 1997, pp.50–55). The potter’s wheel came to Egypt before Sudan, during Egypt’s 4thdynasty c. 2600 BC, with the invention of the wheel originating in the Near East c. 4500–3800 BC (Doherty, 2015). Recent research by Baldi and Roux (2016, pp.236–253) postulated two independent centres of potter’s wheel invention in northern Mesopotamia and southern Levant, resulting from a mutual demand for ceremonial vessels. How the pottery wheel was adopted and developed in Egypt was the topic of the author’s PhD research, now published as “The Origins and Use of the Potter’s wheel in ancient Egypt” (Doherty, 2015). Like Baldi and Roux (2016), Doherty (2015) also revealed that the initial use of the potter’s wheel in Egypt was for manufacturing small ceremonial vessels. The potter’s wheel was arguably the most signifcant machine introduced into Africa, second only perhaps to the lever and loom. Shapes noted in the natural world inspired most ancient inventions. However, wheels do not exist in nature, and so can be viewed entirely as a human-inspired invention. The impact of this innovation would not just have afected the potters themselves through the learning of a new skill, but it also signalled the beginnings of a more complex and technologically advanced nation. The use of machinery would have almost certainly required some form of elite sponsorship to instigate the use of the new technology, and perhaps elite monopoly of the products that the machine was used to make (in this case wheel-thrown or wheel-coiled pottery) prior to it being more widely available. The sponsorship sources would have come from the royal court (Papazian, 2005, p.76) or temples (Janssen, 1975, p.183). This seems to be the case particularly for the Egyptians as the Egyptian hierarchical structuring of Dynastic times is thought to have been quite rigid and controlling of the lower status members of society (Shaw, 2004, pp.12–24).Volume XII ● Issue 2/2021 ● Pages 299–309*Corresponding author. E-mail: Skdoherty28@msn.comARTICLE INFOArticle history:Received: 1stFebruary 2021Accepted: 12thNovember 2021DOI: words:potter’s wheelMiddle-Late Bronze AgeceramicsSudanEgyptcolonisationABSTRACTDoherty (2015) has previously investigated the origins of the potter’s wheel in Egypt in depth. However, how the potter’s wheel came to be used in Sudan has not yet been properly analysed. This paper will present the author’s initial investigations into the pottery industry of Sudan and the manufacturing techniques employed by Sudanese potters.Evidence seems to suggest that rather than being an indigenous invention, the potter’s wheel came to Sudan as part of the colonisation of Sudan by Egypt during the Middle-Late Bronze Age. Throughout this period, various Egyptian towns were founded along the river Nile. One such town was Amara West (inhabited c. 1306–1290 BC).By the Middle Bronze Age, Sudanese potters had well-developed pottery techniques, principally coil- and slab-building. Amara West and other Egyptian colonies used the by then well-established wheel-throwing and coiling techniques (RKE) to manufacture their pottery, principally imported from Egypt. However, these colony towns contained both Sudanese and Egyptian vessels, sometimes in the same contexts, and occasionally with blended manufacture techniques and decoration. This paper will endeavour to postulate upon the efect and legacy of the imposed technology of the potter’s wheel on the Sudanese pottery industry.
image/svg+xmlIANSA 2021 ● XII/2 ● 299–309Sarah K. Doherty: The Introduction of the Potter’s Wheel to Ancient Sudan300After a few false starts (Doherty, 2015, pp.55–57) the Egyptians adopted the invention of the potter’s wheel from Near Eastern potters during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu (c. 2600 BC), the father of the famous Khufu or Cheops. Levantine potters had been using the wheel to delicately thin and fnish coil-built vessels, as seen in Tell Yarmuth, Israel and other sites across the Levant (Courty and Roux, 1995; Roux and de Miroschedji, 2009). Roux and Courty (Roux, 1994; Courty and Roux, 1995; Pierret, 1995; Roux and Courty, 1997) demonstrated that during the earliest use of the potter’s wheel, potters did not start wheel-throwing vessels immediately. Rather, they employed pre-existing coiling techniques in combination with rotation on the wheel. There is evidence to suggest that from the start, the Egyptians utilised the Levantine wheel to throw vessels of the hump of clay rather than fnish wheel-coil-built vessels, at least for the very small “miniature” vessels (Allen, 2006, pp.19–26; Bárta, 1995; Doherty, 2015, pp.66–69). However, throwing of the hump has, as yet, been undetected in other larger contemporary vessel types, so further work is required. The initial evidence suggests that potters began making small pieces on the wheel, in the same manner as apprentice potters do, fashioning miniature ofering pots about 7–8 cm in height (Roux and Corbetta, 1989, pp.11–24). Interestingly, these potters appear to have been state-sponsored, as these frst wheel-made vessels solely occur in elite cemetery sites and are encountered in all the Old Kingdom great pyramid sites (Bárta, 1995, pp.15–24; Charvát, 1981; Doherty, 2015, p.67; el-Khouli, 1991; Reisner, 1931). These vessels exhibit similar traces to those seen in wheel-coiled vessels, but without traces of coils as they are very small. This may mean that the Egyptian potters used very small coils of clay employing wheel-coiling which are now undetectable to the ceramicist. The use of very small coils is inefcient and difcult to achieve on a wheel. Alternatively, the potters were beginning the frst steps into throwing of the hump and learning the techniques of manipulating and centring a mass of clay. The wheel would have been spun with one hand, and the clay manipulated with the other, resulting in initially the centring of the clay, and the drawing up and opening out and shaping of these miniature vessels. When the Egyptians began to utilise the wheel for larger vessels, they appear to have used the wheel-coiling technique as noted in Levantine and Mesopotamian contexts (Roux and Baldi, 2016). The Egyptians were clearly aware of the wheel-coiling technique as V-shaped bowls in Nile Clay have been uncovered at the site of Buto in the Delta (Dessel, 2009, pp.100–101; Faltings, 1998a, p.23; 1998b, pp.367–369).Some of the earliest examples of these miniature vessels were uncovered from the foundation deposit of Pharaoh Sneferu’s pyramid at Medum (Petrie, 1892, Plate XXX; Petrie, Mackay and Wainwright, 1910, Plate XXV, Figure 1). These show traces similar to those identifed in throwing of the hump experiments on ceramics at Phaistos