- Egyptian faience
Egyptian faience is a non-clay ceramic displaying surface vitrification which creates a bright blue-green luster. It is called 'Egyptian faience' to distinguish it from
Faiencewhich refers to the ambiguous term frit and a type of pottery now know as majolica: a tin glazed ware originally produced in Faenza in northern Italy.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. In: Nicholson, P.T. and Shaw, I.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 177-194.137–142.] Egyptian faience, both locally produced and exported from Egypt, occurs widely in the ancient world, and is well known from Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean and in northern Europe as far away as Scotland. Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] Stone and Thomas 1956. The Use and Distribution of Faience in the Ancient East and Prehistoric Europe, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, London 22, 37–84.–142.]
From the inception of faience in the archaeological record of
Ancient Egypt, the elected colors of the glazes varied within an array of blue-green hues. Glazed in these colors, faience was perceived as substitute for blue-green materials such as turquoise, found in the Sinaipeninsula, and lapis lazuli, from Afghanistan.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] . As early as the Predynastic graves at Naqada, Badar,el-Amrah, Matmar, Harageh, Avadiyedh and El-Gerzeh, glazed steatiteand faience beads are found associated with these semi-precious stones.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993. Egyptian faience and glass. Aylesbury: Shire- Egyptology.137–142.] The association of faience with turquoise and lapis lazuli becomes even more conspicuous in Quennou's funerary papyrus, giving his title as the director of overseer of faience-making, using the word which strictly means lapis lazuli, which by the New Kingdomhad also come to refer to the 'substitute', faience .Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] The symbolism embedded in blue glazing could recall both the Nile, the waters of heavenand the home of the gods. Whereas green, could possibly evoke images of regeneration, rebirth and vegetation.Friedman, F.D. (ed.). 1998. Gifts of the Nile-ancient Egyptian faience. London: Thames and Hudson. 177-194.137–142.]
Relationship with Egyptian Copper industry
The discovery of faience glazing has tentatively been associated with the
copperindustry: bronzescale and corrosion products of leaded copper objects are found in the manufacture of faience pigments.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983. Ancient Egyptian Faience. Warminster: Aris and Phillips.137–142.] However, although the likelihood of glazed quartzpebbles developing accidentally in traces in copper smelting furnaces from the copper and wood ash is high, the regions in which these processes originate do not coincide. Petrie, W. M. F.1909. Memphis I, London: British School of Archeology in Egypt.137–142.]
Relationship with Egyptian Glass industry
Although it appears no
glasswas intentionally produced in Egypt prior to the 18th dynasty, it is likely that faience, fritand glass were all made in close proximity or in the same workshop complex, seeing as developments in one industry are reflected in others.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] . Such close relationship is reflected in the prominent similarity of the formulations of faience glaze and contemporary glass compositions. Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983] Despite the differences in the pyrotechnology of glass and faience, the latter being worked cold, archaeological evidence suggests that New Kingdomglass and faience production was undertaken in the same workshops.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.]
Typical Composition and Access to Raw Materials
Faience has been defined as the first high technology ceramic, to emphasize its status as an artificial medium, rendering it effectively a precious stone. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. Egyptian faience technology, Appendix A. In: A. Kaczmarczyk and R.E.M. Hedges, Editors, Ancient Egyptian Faience,Warminster: Aris and Phillips, A1–A14] Egyptian faience is a non-clay ceramic composed of crushed quartz or sand, with small amounts of
calcite limeand a mixture of alkalis, displaying surface vitrificationdue to the sodalime silica glazeoften composed of copper pigments to create a bright blue-green luster.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] While in most instances domestic ores seem to have provided the bulk of the mineral pigments, evidence suggests that during periods of prosperity raw materials also available locally, such as lead and copper, were imported. Kaczamrcyz and Hedges 1983.] Plant ash, from halophitic plants typical of dry and sea areas, was the major source of alkali until the Ptolemaic Period, when natron based alkalis almost completely replaced the previous source. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.] Although the chemical composition of faience materials varies over time and according to the status of the workshop, also as a cause of change of accessibility of raw materials, the material constitution of the glaze is at all times consistent with the generally accepted version of faience glazing.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.]
Faience Working Technology
Typical faience mixture is thixotropic, that is thick at first and then soft and flowing as it begins to be formed. Kiefer, C. and Allibert, A. 2007. Pharanoic Blue Ceramics: the Process of Self-glazing. Archeology 24, 107–117] This property, together with the angularity of silica particles accounts for the gritty slumps formed when the material is wetted, rendering faience a difficult material to hold a shape. Noble, J. V. 1969. The technique of Egyptian faience. American Journal of Archaeology 73, 435–439] If pressed too vigorously this material will resist flow until it yields and cracks, as a cause of its limited plastic deformation and low yield strength.Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.]
Body Binding Technology
A number of possible binding agents, amongst arabic gum, clay, lime, egg white and resin, have been suggested to help in the binding process.Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962] Although traces of clay have been found in most Pharaonic faience, reconstruction experiments showed that clay, organic gums or lime while successfully improving the wet working performance, failed to improve the fired strength of the faience, or proved the gum was too sticky for the removal of objects from their molds Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.] Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962, Ancient Egyptian materials and industries. London: Edward Arnold. 435–439] The use of alkalis as binders, in the form of natron or plant ash, produced suitable results in experiments.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] Pulverized glass or sintered material of similar composition could also enhance the fired strength of faience bodies: the compositions of such glasses is in fact comparable to the published compositions of New Kingdom glass. Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.137–142.] Kühne, K. 1974 “Frühgeschichtliche Werkstoffe auf Silikatischer Basis”, Das Altertum 20, 67–80 ]
Body working technology
Three methods have been hypothesized to shape the body of faience objects: modeling, moulding and abrasion, the last being used in the conjunction with the first two.Nicholson and Peltenburg 2000.] Modeling, scraping and grinding are the techniques most widely used in earlier times, as represented in the material qualities of Predynastic and Protodynastic faience objects.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993. Egyptian faience and glass. Aylesbury: Shire- Egyptology.137–142.] Predynastic bead manufacture is essentially a cold technology, more akin to stone working than glass: a general form of faience is modeled, possibly free formed by hand, then holes are drilled to create beads.Nicholson, P.T.1993]
In the Middle Kingdom, the techniques employed are molding and forming on a core, sometimes in conjunction with intermediate layers between the glaze and the body. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.A1–A14] Marbleized faience, resulting from the working of different colored faience bodies together, as to produce a uniform adherent body, also appears in this period. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.] Towards the end of the Middle Kingdom, incising, inlaying and resisting techniques appear: bound to become progressively popular towards the New Kingdom. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] . In the New Kingdom, beads, amulets and finger rings are produced by a combination of modeling and molding techniques. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] . In this period, sculptural detail was created using inlays of different colored faience or by scraping the body to reveal the white intermediate layer in relief. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] . Moulding was first applied to faience manufacture in the Middle Kingdom by forming a model of an object, or employing a finished faience piece, impressing it in wet clay, and later by firing the clay to create a durable mold.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] Notes on the manufacture and use of faience rings at Amarna. In: Kemp, B.J. Amarna Reports V. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 160-168, 160–168 ] . The faience paste could then be pressed into the mold, and following drying, be re-worked through surface abrasion before firing.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] . Moulds could facilitate mass production of faience objects such as amulets rings and inlays, as evidenced by the several thousand of small open face, earth-ware clay molds excavated at Tell el Amarna. Petrie, W. M. F.1909.137–142.] Wheel throwing, possibly occurring from the New Kingdom onwards, is certainly established by the Greco-Romano period, when large amounts of clay seems to have been added to the faience body.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] . Because of the limited plasticity of faience, rendering throwing extremely difficult, a progressive increase of clay in the faience bodies culminating in the quartz, clay and glass frit bodies of Islamic times, is observed in the archaeological record. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] Kiefer, C. 1968 Les céramiques blues, pharanoiques et leur procédé révolutionnaire d'emaillage. Industrie Céramique. May, 395–402 ] . Ptolemaic and Roman faience tends to be typologically and technologically distinct from the earlier material: it is characterized by the widespread use of moulding and high relief on vessels. Shortland, A.J. and Tite M.S. 2005. A technological study of Ptolemaic – early roman faience from Memphis, Egypt Archaeometry 47/1, 31–46 31–46 ]
The technology of glazing a siliceous body with a soda lime silica glaze, employs various methods discovered over time: namely application, efflorescence and cementation glazing.
In the application method, formerly assumed to be the only one used for faience glazing; silica, lime and alkalis are ground in the raw state to a small particle size, thus mixed in water to form a slurry which is then applied to the quartz core.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] Petrie, W. M. F.1909.137–142.] Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962. 435–439] Partial fritting of the slurry favors the first stages of vitrification, which in turn lowers the final firing temperature. The slurry can be then applied to the body, through brushing or dipping, to create a fine, powdery coating. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.A1–A14] Upon firing, the water from the melting glaze partially diffuses in the sand body, sintering the quartz particles and thus creating some solid bridges in the body. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.A1–A14]
Efflorescence of glazing
In the self-glazing process of efflorescence, the glazing materials, in the form of water-soluble alkali salts, are mixed with the raw crushed quartz of the core of the object Kiefer, C. and Allibert, A. 2007. 107–117] Noble, J. V. 1969.435–439] Binns. 1932. An experiment in Egyptian blue glaze. Journal of the American Ceramic Society 31–46 ] . As the water in the body evaporates, the salts migrate to the surface of the object to recrystallize, creating a thin surface, which glazes upon firing.Vandiver, P.B.F.1983.A1–A14]
Cementation glazing, a technique discovered in the Middle Kingdom, is also a self-glazing technique.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] . The possibility of the existence of cementation glazing, also known as 'Qom technique', followed the observation of this method in use at the village of 'Qom' in Iran in the 1960's. Wulff, H. E., Wulff, H. S. and Koch, L., 1968. Egyptian faience - a possible survival in Iran. Archeology 21, 98–107 ] In this method the artefact, while buried in a glazing powder with a high flux content, is heated inside a vessel, causing the fusion of the object with the cement. During firing, the flux migrates to the quartz and precipitates as glass. Wulff, H. E., Wulff, H. S. and Koch, L., 1968. 98–107 ] Alternative techniques
A vapour glaze reaction similar to salt glazing is an alternative glazing process, has been suggested. In this process, the vaporization or dissociation of salts leads to vapour transport through the enveloping powder to the quartz body where a glaze is formed. Williamson, R.S.1942. The Saqqara Graph. Nature 150, 607–607]
Recognition of glazing techniques
Although glaze compositions vary regionally and chronologically, depending on the formation of the body and the glazing process employed, objects produced with different glazing techniques do not exhibit immediate diagnostic chemical variations in their compositions.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.137–142.] Tite, M.S., Freestone I.C. and Bimson. M. 1983. Egyptian faience: an investigation of the methods of production, Archaeometry 25, 17–27 ] The recognition of the various glazing techniques, through microscopic observations of the degree of sintering and the vitreous phase of quartz body, is also ambiguous. For instance, objects with applied glazes and those which may have been glazed by efflorescence have overlapping characteristic features. Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. Faience: an investigation of the microstructures associated with the different methods of glazing, Archaeometry 28, 69–78 ] Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.137–142.] The following proposed criteria are subject to variation caused by increases in flux concentration, firing temperatures and time at peak temperatures. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14]
"Recognition of application glazing"- Macroscopically, applied glazes vary in thickness through the body, displaying thicker glazes on bases. Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ] The traces of kiln supports, as well as the characteristic tendency to run and drip leading to pooling, may indicate the orientation of the object during firing. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] In high magnification observations, the interface boundary of body and glaze appears well defined. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] The absence of interstitial glass in the core is characteristic of application glazing: however, the possibility of adding glazing mixture to the quartz sand body, as well as the use of pre-melted glazes in the later periods, can predictably increase the degree of sintering of the core Shortland, A.J. and Tite M.S. 2005. 31–46 ] Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ] "Recognition of cementation"- Objects glazed through cementation display a thin even glaze all over the body, with no drying or firing marks, and portray a fairly friable and soft body Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ] Binns. 1932. 31–46 ] Microscopically, the concentration of copper characteristically decreases from the surface: the interaction layer is thin and well defined and the interstitial glass is absent with exception to the vicinity of the boundary layer. Vandiver, P.B.F.1983. A1–A14] Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ]
"Recognition of efflorescence glazing"- Pieces glazed by efflorescence may show traces of stand marks: the glaze appears thick and prone to cracking, thinning toward the edge of the piece and in concave areas. Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ] In high magnification the interstitial glass is extensive; the unreacted salts which have not reached the surface fuse of the body accumulate in the core, creating bridges between the quartz particles. Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ]
An extensive literature has accumulated in attempt to explain the processing of Egyptian faience and develop an adequate typology that encompasses both technological choices and chemical variations of faience bodies .Nicholson, P.T.1993. Egyptian faience and glass. Aylesbury: Shire- Egyptology.137–142.] Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962, 435–439] Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. 69–78 ] Brill, R.H. 1999. Chemical Analyses of Early Glasses: Volume 1 (tables) and Volume 2 (catalogue), Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass., 69–78 ] Body color, density and luster provided the basis of the first typology developed for faience: seven variants were proposed and still permit to distinguish faience objects during field sorting Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962, 435–439]
Classification of Body Variants
Most of the categories introduced by Lucas fail to recognize the glazing technology utilized or suggest the stylistic and technological choices embedded in the manufacture of a faience object. However, variant A describes a technologically unique product and as such is still applicable: it has a finely ground underglaze consisting of quartz particles in a glass matrix, often revealed by incisions or depressions cut into the overlying glaze.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983.137–142.] Shortland, A.J. and Tite M.S. 2005. 31–46 ] Glassy faience, variant E, displays no distinct outer layer from the interior, thus it has been suggested that the term 'faience' is a misnomer and the alternative name 'imperfect glass' has been advised.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983. 137–142.] Regarding variant F specimens, Lucas suggests the use of lead glazes, however it appears that lead was never practiced in Ancient Egypt.Kaczamrcyz, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983. Ancient Egyptian Faience. Warminster: Aris and Phillips.137–142.] Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986, 69–78 ]
The excavations led by Petrie at Tell-Amarna and Naucratis have reported finding workshop evidence. Petrie, W. M. F.1909.137–142.] Lucas documented a large numbers of molds at the palace area of Amenhotep III, at Qantir from Dynasties 19-20 and at the palace area of Naucratis also described in different sources as a scarab maker's and faience factory. Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962, 435–439] Petrie, W. M. F.1909.137–142.] However, seeing as there is a lack of carefully documented archaeological evidence as to the nature of faience factory sites, direct information about the glazing process does not exist. Although recent excavations at the archaeological sites of Abydos and Amarna have supplemented our knowledge of the ancient production of faience gained from the earlier excavated sites of Lisht, Memphis and Naukratis, the differentiation of glass furnaces from faience kilns still remains problematic.Nicholson 1998. Nicholson, P.T.1993.] Replication experiments, using modern kilns and replica faience pastes, indicate that faience is fired in the range of 800-1000° Verges, F.B. 1992. Bleus Egyptiennes. Paris: Louvain. 69–78 ] Stocks, D.A.1997. Derivation of ancient Egyptian faience core and glaze materials. Antiquity 71/271, 179–182 ]
*Binns. 1932. An experiment in Egyptian blue glaze. Journal of the American Ceramic Society.
*Boyce, A. 1989. Notes on the manufacture and use of faience rings at Amarna. In: Kemp, B.J. Amarna Reports V. London: Egypt Exploration Society. 160-168.
*Brill, R.H. 1999. Chemical Analyses of Early Glasses: Volume 1 (tables) and Volume 2 (catalogue), Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass,
*Dayton, J.E. Minerals, Metals, Glazing and Man. Edinburgh: Harrap Publishers. 1978.
*Friedman, F.D. (ed.). 1998. Gifts of the Nile-ancient Egyptian faience. London: Thames and Hudson.
*Lucas, A. and Harris, J. R., 1962, Ancient Egyptian materials and industries. London: Edward Arnold.
*Kaczmarczyk, A. and Hedges. R.E.M. 1983. Ancient Egyptian Faience. Warminster: Aris and Phillips.
*Kiefer, C. and Allibert, A. 2007. Pharanoic Blue Ceramics: the Process of Self-glazing. Archaeology 24, 107-117.
*Kiefer, C. 1968. Les céramiques blues, pharanoiques et leur procédé révolutionnaire d'emaillage. Industrie Céramique. May 395-402.
*Kühne, K. 1974 “Frühgeschichtliche Werkstoffe auf Silikatischer Basis”, Das Altertum 20, 67-80
*Nicholson, P.T.1993. Egyptian faience and glass. Aylesbury: Shire- Egyptology.
*Nicholson, P.T. and Peltenburg, E. 2000. Egyptian faience. In: Nicholson, P.T. and Shaw, I. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 177-194.
*Noble, J. V. 1969. The technique of Egyptian faience. American Journal of Archaeology 73, 435-439.
*Shortland, A.J. and Tite M.S. 2005. A technological study of Ptolemaic – early roman faience from Memphis, Egypt Archaeometry 47/1, 31–46.
*Stone, J. F. S. and Thomas, L. C. 1956. The Use and Distribution of Faience in the Ancient East and Prehistoric Europe, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, London 22, 37–84.
*Stocks, D.A.1997. Derivation of ancient Egyptian faience core and glaze materials. Antiquity 71/271, 179-182.
*Petrie, W. M. F.1909. Memphis I, London: British School of Archeology in Egypt.
*Tite, M.S. and Bimson, M. 1986. Faience: an investigation of the microstructures associated with the different methods of glazing, Archaeometry 28, 69–78.
*Tite, M.S., Freestone I.C. and Bimson. M. 1983. Egyptian faience: an investigation of the methods of production, Archaeometry 25, 17–27.
*Vandiver P.B. 1983. Egyptian faience technology, Appendix A. In: A. Kaczmarczyk and R.E.M. Hedges, Editors, Ancient Egyptian Faience,Warminster: Aris and Phillips, A1–A144.
*Vandiver, P. and Kingery, W.D. 1987. Egyptian Faience: the first high-tech ceramic. In Kingery, W.D. ed., Ceramics and Civilisation 3, Columbus OH: American Ceramic Society, 19-34.
*Verges, F.B. 1992. Bleus Egyptiennes. Paris: Louvain
*Wulff, H. E., Wulff, H. S. and Koch, L., 1968. Egyptian faience - a possible survival in Iran. Archeology 21, 98-107.
*Williamson, R.S.1942. The Saqqara Graph. Nature 150, 607-607.
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