2nd Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Paul Nicholson and Caroline Jackson

From the 2nd Experimental Archaeology Conference, Exeter, 2007.

Experimental Glassmaking in Egypt

Dr. Paul T. Nicholson & Dr. Caroline M. Jackson,

University of Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales

This paper summarises an attempt to determine whether a reconstruction of a large furnace discovered at Tell el-Amarna in 1993-4 could reach temperatures sufficient to produce glass from local raw materials. The question of whether or not the Egyptians of the 18th Dynasty (1550-1295 B.C.) could actually make their own glass from its raw materials rather than simply work glass from imported ingots has been a vexed one.  Central to this has been the view, based on theory alone, that glass furnaces must have been of small size in order to reach sufficient temperatures, and that structures as large as those unearthed at Amarna could not therefore be for glassmaking.

The scale of the experiment, which involved building a furnace at full size, and at the site of Amarna itself, will be discussed.  The authors feel that the question of scale and location is an important one, and that the value of the experiment is, to some extent, determined by these factors.  The question of the substitution of raw materials and the viability of the results will also be discussed.  Furthermore, the work will be set into the context of the overall research strategy of the Amarna Glass Project and linked to laboratory analyses of materials from the Amarna site.

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