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14 December 2007
A team led by a Cardiff University archaeologist has reconstructed a 3,000-year-old glass furnace, showing that Ancient Egyptian glassmaking methods were much more advanced than previously thought.
Dr Paul Nicholson, of the University’s School of History and Archaeology, is leader of an Egypt Exploration Society team working on the earliest fully excavated glassmaking site in the world. The site, at Amarna, on the banks of the Nile, dates back to the reign of Akhanaten (1352 - 1336 B.C.), just a few years before the rule of Tutankhamun.
It was previously thought that the Ancient Egyptians may have imported their glass from the Near East at around this time. However, the excavation team believes the evidence from Amarna shows they were making it themselves, possibly in a single stage operation. Dr Nicholson and his colleague Dr Caroline Jackson of Sheffield University demonstrated this was possible, using local sand to produce a glass ingot from their own experimental reconstruction of a furnace near the site.
The team have also discovered that the glassworks was part of an industrial complex which involved a number of other high temperature manufacturing processes. The site also contained a potter’s workshop and facilities for making blue pigment and faience - a material used in amulets and architectural inlays. The site was near one of the main temples at Amarna and may have been used to produce materials in state buildings.
Dr Nicholson, who has been working at Amarna since 1983, said: "It has been argued that the Egyptians imported their glass and worked it into the artefacts that have been discovered from this time. I believe there is now enough evidence to show that skilled craftsmen could make their own glass and were probably involved in a range of other manufacturing industries as well."
Dr Nicholson has now written a book detailing the discoveries made at Amarna. Entitled Brilliant Things for Akhenaten, it is published by the Egypt Exploration Society (London) and available through Oxbow Books in the UK and The David Brown Book Company in the USA.
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.
Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk
Cardiff School of History and Archaeology
The School of History and Archaeology carries out teaching and research in four main areas: History and Welsh History; Ancient History; Archaeology; and Archaeology Conservation. Archaeology offers expertise in two main areas: the archaeology of Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean 5000BC-1000AD; and studies in ancient technology and the analysis of materials and conservation science. The teaching of Ancient History and Archaeology was assessed as "Excellent" in the recent national assessment of teaching quality in UK universities.
For further information, and pictures of the Amarna site and the glass produced in the experimental furnace, please contact:
Dr. Paul Nicholson,School of History & Archaeology (HISAR),Cardiff University.(office) 029 2087 4582(home) 029 2049 3152(mobile) 07866-815434e-mail: NicholsonPT@cardiff.ac.uk
Stephen Rouse,Public Relations Office,Cardiff University.029 2087 5596e-mail: RouseS@cardiff.ac.uk
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