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Pot Luck: 2,000-Year-Old Pottery Workshop Unearthed In Egypt

Perfectly preserved studio, natural gas kiln, pots and pans are more than 2,000 years old.

Egyptian archeologists have discovered the remains of a pottery workshop that they believe dates back to the Greco-Roman era more than 2,000 years ago.

The pottery workshop was discovered during an archeology dig in the area of Tel Kom Aziza in the Egyptian governorate of Beheira, north of Cairo.

The workshop dates back to between the 3rd century B.C. and the first century A.D., according to the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri.

Sections of the workshop would be recognizable to modern potters: a clay wedging and kneading area, a forming area, a drying area and furnaces. They have all been unearthed.

Pots and pans from the Greco-Roman period made of clay mixed with additives are perfectly preserved after more than 2,000 years. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Zenger)

The wedging and kneading area is where the clay was prepared, kneaded and mixed with additives to make the material more uniform, which would ultimately make the forming process easier.

The forming area of the workshop was used for crafting the pottery into shapes and polishing it. This is the area where archeologists also discovered metal tools, parts of a potter’s wheel, and parts of clay pots.

The drying area is a sun-exposed spot where the premade pots were left to dry in natural sunlight before being taken to the kilns, thermally insulated chambers that produce temperatures sufficient to harden earthenware.

The head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Ayman Ashmawy, said the kilns have upper ventilation holes and are built of red brick surrounded by thick walls of mud bricks to withstand high temperatures during the burning process.

The discovered incinerators have updraft kilns built of red bricks and are surrounded by mud bricks to bear the pressure of burning. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Zenger)

In the kilns, archeologists found gas pipes, discharge pipes to control the temperature inside the ovens and unfinished earthenware pots.
Natural gas was first discovered in ancient China and may have been in use as early as 1,000 B.C.

Ibrahim Sobhy, head of the Egyptian archeological team, said a residential settlement with houses made of mud bricks was also discovered in the area. Archeologists found pottery for daily use, cooking ovens, storage silos and bronze coins in the ancient houses,.

In addition to the residential settlement, Sobhy’s team unearthed a group of mud-brick tombs. Human remains were buried in a squatting position in some of them, covered with a thick layer of silt and surrounded by funerary vessels made of pottery, alabaster and copper.

Sobhy said also that the new findings show these burials date back to the era of the beginning of the dynasties. Ancient Egyptians settled that region from the historical eras to the Roman era.

(Edited by Angie Ivan and Fern Siegel)