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Above: A selection of faience, glass and agate beads and amulets, and a clay faience mould.
The site at the end of the 2014 season, looking north-eastThe site at the end of the 2014 season, looking north-east
A selection of glass beads from M50.14A selection of glass beads from M50.14
A selection of glass beads from M50.14A selection of glass beads from M50.14
Some finds indicative of glass-workingSome finds indicative of glass-working
A large fragment of a glass ingot in a cylindrical vessel, a probable ingot mouldA large fragment of a glass ingot in a cylindrical vessel, a probable ingot mould

Background

Excavations of a bead workshop at M50.14-.16 in the Main City South Buildings M50.14-16, initially excavated by C. L. Woolley on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Society in 1922, were re-excavated by Anna Hodgkinson and team in October and November 2014. The project was planned after an area of vitrified mud-brick debris was discovered on the surface of M50.14, an indicator of high-temperature industries. Woolley originally described it as a workshop for the manufacture of glass and faience objects:

“At point X: remains of a glaze kiln: pit cut in sand 1.00m diam. by 0.50m deep, full of burnt brick, glass and glaze slag, and fragments of the pots used in the kiln for standing the vessels on: the bottoms and sides of these are covered with tricklings of glaze.” (COA I, 19). The area around this feature marked the easternmost extent of the excavation, while the westernmost edge encompassed the western boundary wall of the main house (M50.16) and some of the adjacent walls, which do not appear on the original plan and have not been previously excavated.

The building complex, as published in 1922, encompasses a domestic house (M50.16), a secondary building to the east of this house (M50.15), and the surrounding courtyard (M50.14). While the work centred on the courtyard M50.14, house M50.16 was also excavated in order to establish the spatial and functional relationship between the courtyard and the domestic complex. M50.15 was left largely unexcavated and remains to be studied.

The area of excavation at M.50.14–16 had been surveyed using magnetometry during the Amarna Geophysics Field School in 2011. The survey produced pronounced magnetic anomalies along the southern perimeter of the house, the strength and nature of these anomalies being what may be expected from fire-affected materials, correlating with the location of vitrified material observed on the surface, and with the household oven, noted in 1922. Additional pit features were excavated in the southern squares, along with ephemeral deposits of fired material, including vitrified mud brick and sandstone, and heat-affected ceramics.

According to the archaeological evidence a workshop for the manufacture of beads was in place in the courtyard, which specialized in the production of glass and faience beads and amulets. This workshop also made beads from other materials, such as agate, by carving and may have also decorated some glass vessels. The data are analysed in order to establish the role of the buildings within in an industrially active area of the Main City South at Amarna, which includes the House of Ranefer and the Grid 12 excavations. Working took place on a domestic level, but through the discovery of glass ingots it can be suggested that the occupants had access to relatively high-status materials, the cobalt colourant being an import from the western desert. While glass was a popular and desirable commodity throughout the New Kingdom, with a peak during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, it almost disappears from the archaeological record after the Ramesside period.

The first season of excavation was funded by the G.A. Wainwright Fund, the Corning Museum of Glass (Rakow Grant), the Association for the History of Glass (the report) and the Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society. The work and some of the objects discovered at the site are described on pages 8–9 of Horizon 16, and the preliminary report, published in the Journal of Glass Studies, can be downloaded here.

A second season of fieldwork, funded by an Egypt Exploration Society Fieldwork and Research Grant, is planned for October 2017, when further excavation will take place in the eastern courtyard of M50.14 and in house M50.15. The planned work will hopefully shed more light on the function of the domestic complex, the layout of house M50.15, as well as on the presence and use of kilns.

Chemical analysis of the glass objects from site M50.14-16 is also planned, and a discussion of the preliminary results from a study on Amarna glass in Berlin can be found here, and has also recently been presented at the 41st International Symposium on Archaeometry.

See also: http://www.annahodgkinson.co.uk/fieldwork.html

Above: Plan of the 2014 excavations

Above: Plan of the 2014 excavations

 
 

Website first posted September 2000; last updated November 2010 | enquiries concerning website: email bjk2@cam.ac.uk