The pottery of the Middle Kingdom from Aswan

The Swiss Institute for Egyptian Building Research and History has been carrying out the pioneering project »urban archeology in Aswan« since 2000 in cooperation with the Egyptian ministry of antiquities. The work has demonstrated that Aswan was already an important site in the Middle Kingdom. The analysis of the pottery confirms a permanent occupation of this site during the late Middle Kingdom.

Pioneering project »urban archeology in Aswan«


The objective of the project is to establish ›urban archaeology‹, a form of archaeology that is well established in western and central Europe but with a few exceptions is hardly represented in Egypt. Over the course of the last 16 years a total of 93 excavations took place, a large part (89) rescue excavations; this has led to a considerable gain in our knowledge of the history of Aswan, one of the most important cities of ancient Egypt. The site was inhabited from the prehistoric to the Arab period.

Sites of the Middle Kingdom


Until recently Pharaonic Aswan was virtually unknown. Initial layers of the Middle Kingdom were discovered in Area 18, research in Area 23 yielded installations for granite mining and transport. In the Areas 72, 73, and 74 there were provisions for quarry activity. The areas 45 and 58 are of great importance for the understanding of the settlement activity in the Middle Kingdom and domestic structures in connection with workshops and bakeries were discovered there.

Pottery of the Middle Kingdom


The pottery of the Middle Kingdom in Aswan dates to the later Middle Kingdom and two sub-phases can be identified: the late 12th and early 13th dynasty. The repertoire consists of the forms typical for this time, such as bowls, cups, ring-stands, and storage vessels. Imports from Lower Egypt such as cooking pots made of Nile clay E and vases made of Marl C and from Zire are to be found. The classification of the clay types falls into the ›Vienna-system‹, the predominant clay is the local Nile clay (Nile B, C, and E), in addition there are also the Upper Egyptian (Marl A) and Lower Egyptian marl clays (Marl C). The local Nile clay contains a noticeably large number of volcanic particles.

Nubian pottery 


The Nubian pottery is the largest non-Egyptian group of pottery from the Middle Kingdom in Aswan and an important part of the material culture in this region. The repertoire varies from very fine to coarse vessels and the open vessel forms clearly predominate. In contrast to the nearby site of Elephantine this pottery does not appear in Aswan before the 13th dynasty.