Diana Craig Patch
During work in the area west of the Audience Pavilion, we have consistently recovered small molds made from pottery. The fabric is Nile clay tempered with fine sand, and frequently with lots of coarse sand, which I refer to in my notes as grit. Grit for me is very visible as little dark irregular chunks.
The molds were used to make the beautiful little faience ornaments like the mandrake featured in an earlier blog (An Ancient Egyptian Aphrodisiac). The most common image that we have collected is that of a rosette. Rosettes come in many varieties: ones with clear rounded petals, ones where the petals are long and thin so the rosette looks ridged, and ones I refer to as “spotted.” (I am sure there is a more elegant or technical term, but for now I know exactly what a “spotted” one is!)
The people who were producing these ornaments would press faience paste into the mold to take the impression, which would then be trimmed and set it aside to dry. When dry the faience would be baked to harden it and produce the shiny bright blue color that is so familiar to us. At Malqata though, one finds other faience colors besides turquoise; dark blue, yellow, and even green faience occur.
The other day we collected a piece of “plaster” in a level in N150 E180, the square where we have excavated the most this year in this site. Yesterday I had a chance to study it and noted the ball was evenly round and closer observation made me realize that the material wasn’t plaster, but a white substance with grit: faience. I am guessing that one ancient Egyptian workman’s task was to make little round balls of faience for another workman to press into a mold. He lost one and we just found it!
February 1, 2016