Wares, Types and Fabrics

The Upper Egypt Contribution to the Levantine Ceramics Project

Normally archaeological publications only present the data in a selected and interpreted form and thus the scholarship evades being verified and reproduced. The publication of large quantities of data in an analogue format would neither be affordable nor manageable. For pottery finds from Upper Egypt we have selected to publish the raw data online through the »Levantine Ceramics Project«-website.

The problem of large quantities of data

In archaeology it is common for excavations to generate large numbers of finds that then have to be scientifically studied. This is particularly the case for excavations taking place in the Mediterranean, such as Syene and Elephantine in Upper Egypt, where a total of 321,221 pottery fragments were discovered as part of an FWF-project (P23866-G18). Of this large number of fragments around 16,000 were categorized as diagnostic, i.e. they can be interpreted in greater detail. The time period covers almost all of antiquity from the 6th century BCE to the 8th century CE when the southern border town of the Roman Empire was conquered by the Arabs. Syene is also thought to be one of the most important production centers of ceramic vessels which were traded in the entire Mediterranean. It is astonishing, therefore, that this material has never been more fully published.

Accessibility, verifiability, and reusability

Such large quantities of finds cannot be published in its entirety in a traditional manner and a interpretive selection also entails an involuntary loss of information and prevents further use of the raw data. Additionally, printed publications are only accessible to a small group of readers because the publications are only available in select libraries. Particularly for the scientific community in the regions of North Africa and the Levant the only option of including them in the scientific discourse is to make information freely available online. A way out of this dilemma is made possible through the integration of research data with the »Levantine Ceramics Project«-website. This is an international initiative, established at Boston University, and has the function of a long-term data repository as well as of an innovative research tool for pottery data of the eastern Mediterranean.