Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt

Alexandra Villing, Marianne Bergeron, Giorgos Bourogiannis, Alan Johnston, François Leclère, Aurélia Masson and Ross Thomas

With Daniel von Recklinghausen, Jeffrey Spencer, Valerie Smallwood, Virginia Webb and Susan Woodford

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Supported by

The Leverhulme Trust
  • The Shelby White - Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications
  • Christian Levett and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art
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Archaic mixed style faience figures


Virginia Webb

When Petrie first excavated at Naukratis and discovered the debris of the scarab factory, he was very pleased to find another group of material which he also identified as having an un-Egyptian style. These were in the form of faience figurines of both humans and animals in what he called ‘glazed ware’. They are found throughout the Greek world and are especially important for the role they played in the belief system of those Greeks who came into contact with the Egyptians for they replaced the earlier usage of Egyptian-style amulets (of gods) in the Greek world. Manufactured in a mixed style that borrows features from both Egyptian and Greek forms, their material added to their power, since faience was believed to have magic efficacy. They occupy an important niche in the cultural history of Greek contacts with the Saite dynasty, when Greeks were eager to adapt the art of their hosts and transform it into something which was of use to them.

It now seems that Naukratis, though an important centre of manufacture, was not the earliest originator of the style and did not produce the finest pieces. Other production centres existed in East Greece, most likely on Rhodes.

Faience figure of a naked male figure holding an amphora, from Naukratis. British Museum, 1888,0601.46