- Archaeology -- Methodology
The existence of specialized craftsmen — including stonemasons, coppersmiths, carpenters, jewelers and potters — in ancient Egypt arises in part from the general industries spawned from the elaborate monumental constructions that characterize the Old Kingdom (ca. 2600-2100 BCE). Pottery vessels in particular are one of the most abundant kinds of artifacts known from ancient Egypt, with functions ranging from formal presentation to baking bread, to grains and olive oil storage. While not all pottery is associated with monumental architecture, the emergence of specialized or semi-specialized potters is likely due to the same socioeconomic factors that gave rise to such famous monuments as the pyramids at Giza. As more materials and labor were required to build the necropoli of the Old Kingdom, pottery vessels played a role in tasks ranging from copper smelting to baking. Therefore, the “massproduction” of vessels and by extension the emergence of pottery specialists is to some extent a function of the economics of monumental constructions.
The results of this study are consistent with the idea that pottery is produced at the household or possibly nome level rather than being mass-produced at a central location. Individual Old Kingdom locations produce vessels sharing similar general characteristics, but also exhibiting statistically distinct differences that track geographical distance between sites. Sites located closer to each other are typically more similar in vessel measurements.