Posted by: imalqata | February 4, 2013

Sew What?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Several days ago our senior excavator in the North Village called me over to his square and pointed to a mud brick wall. I looked and observed three laid bricks forming the final layer of a portion of wall. Not earthshaking news since we are looking for mud brick walls and this one was a disappointing example. Realizing I was missing his meaning, Azib came over and pointed to the mortar between two bricks. Then I saw, standing upright in the mortar, a thin green stick. How he saw it without disturbing this tiny piece, I really don’t know. His eyes are definitely sharp and he is very careful.

Needle in mortar between two mud bricks

Needle in mortar between two mud bricks

We photographed the stick in situ and then pulled it out of the mortar. It turned out to be the lower half of a copper-alloy needle; this one is missing its eye. When they are incomplete, needles in archaeological contexts are identified as such when they have a sharp point and a round cross-section. This piece has those qualities, so it is a needle and not an awl, a similarly shaped tool used for punching, but lacking an eye. This needle’s preservation is amazing, although in places it displays a light green patina, the result of the metal’s exposure to air and moisture. When we find an object made from copper-alloy (difficult to distinguish bronze from copper so we say copper- alloy), the object is almost always completely, and often heavily covered in this patina. But ours is so light that in places the ancient metal still shows its original brown color.

Needle excavated by the Metropolitan Museum in the late New Kingdom settlement at Lisht. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.151.743)

Needle excavated by the Metropolitan Museum in the late New Kingdom settlement at Lisht. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.151.743)

The thinness of the needle suggests it was used to sew with fine thread. Such thread seems to have been uncommon. For example at Amarna, the archaeologists have observed that garments of fine linen are frequently sewn with a heavier thread. Given the quality of our needle one might suggest that it was once used to make or repair royal garments in the palaces next to the village rather than those of the inhabitants of this small settlement. The needle was clearly already broken when buried and therefore probably dropped somewhere. It was most likely scraped up with the earth collected for making the mortar and found its way into this unusual find spot.

Needle found in the North Village

Needle found in the North Village

Diana Craig Patch

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Responses

  1. Truly the proverbial needle in a “haystack.” Well done.


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