6th Experimental Archaeology Conference Abstract – Esme Hammerle

From the 6th Experimental Archaeology Conference, York, 2012.

A matter of microns: reverse engineering of Egyptian Faience manufacture

Esme A. Hammerle

School of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, UK

Faience is considered to be the first ‘high-tech’ non-clay ceramic and has been produced for over 5,000 years. However, a ‘true’ replica of this material has never been made successfully. There have been many studies which have attempted and have come close, but it is still an enigma. This was one of the main issues that this project set out to examine. This PhD research started by trying to understand how the technology and chemical composition of faience in Egypt changed from the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) to the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC) by analyzing beads from dated tombs at Abydos, Egypt. This includes developing a methodology for determining the raw material sources utilized in the production of faience, specifically the colorants and the silica and alkali sources using several different analytical methods (SEM-EDS, crystallography, electron backscatter diffraction and strontium isotope analysis). Once the archaeological samples have yielded all of their ‘secrets’, the final question must be whether the knowledge and understanding gained is sufficient to enable accurate replicas to be produced? In theory once the analysis is completed (i.e. the raw material sources have been identified, the firing temperature has been estimated, glazing method and forming method has been determined) all of this knowledge should aid in producing exact replicas of the archaeological material, but does it? The results of the experimental work undertaken for this PhD research will be presented and compared with the archaeological material analyzed.

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