Crafts

Colin Hope, Gillian Bowen, Marie Dominique Nenna

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

Abstract

Throughout this volume, information is presented concerning a wide range of activities that took place at Kellis, relating to the local subsistence economy, the production and transport of cash crops, administration, religious life and burial practices. In this section we focus upon the crafts and the people who produced the material culture for which information derives from artefacts, texts and the built environment. Needless to say, not all can be reviewed here, and we have chosen to focus upon four crafts that are represented by significant quantities of material: basketry and leatherwork, ceramics, glass and textiles. They illustrate aspects of production at the site and imports of luxuries, and the relationship between the material culture of Kellis and that of neighbouring and more distant regions. Before doing so and by way of a broader contextualisation, comments on other activities are appropriate. We should remember from the outset that many if not all of the craftspeople would also have been farmers and engaged in domestic pursuits and necessarily flexible in the range of their activities, as is the case today.

The built environment is the ideal starting point. The architecture at Kellis is overwhelmingly mud brick, with stone restricted to the Main Temple and West Temple, for certain features in some of the tombs and some of the floors of the east churches. Specialist stonemasons would have been required to quarry and work the stone, mainly sandstone but also some limestone, and probably transport it to the site, then to lay the floor, carve the building components, erect the building or part thereof, and to carve any decoration or texts. A quarry from which the sandstone probably originated is located about seven kilometres south-west of the site. Mud for the bricks was readily available on the site and in its environs. Pits resulting from extraction underlie the houses in Area A. The other necessary component is straw, which was mixed in abundance into the mud to strengthen it, and again this would have been readily accessible, especially following harvesting of cereal crops. Bricks were formed by pressing the mud into a preformed wooden, rectangular frame and there is a great degree of uniformity of brick size in each period; in the Late Roman period this is 36–8 x 16 x 8–10 cm.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKellis
Subtitle of host publicationA Roman-Period Village in Egypt's Dakhleh Oasis
EditorsColin A. Hope, Gillian E. Bowen
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Chapter4
Pages79-128
Number of pages50
ISBN (Print)9780521190329
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Cite this