The corpus of pre-firing potmark from Adaïma (Upper Egypt)

Gaëlle Bréand

EHESS-CRPPM, CNRS UMR 5608 “TRACES,” Toulouse, France

In light of the renewed interest in Predynastic and Early Dynastic potmarks expressed at the Second International Colloquium on Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egypt: Origins of the State 2, which took place in September 2005 in Toulouse, France (Midant-Reynes and Tristan [eds.] 2008), an international potmark forum was initiated (van den Brink 2007) and a workshop was held during the Third International Colloquium in London 2008 in order to discuss the role and function of this material in the context of state formation.

This paper presents data available from the study of pre-firing potmarks found at the Predynastic site of Adaïma, Upper Egypt (3700–2600 BC), the excavation of which was completed in 2005. In total, 662 signs were recovered from both the cemeteries and settlement. The marks were placed on different types of pots such as jars, bowls, bread moulds or cooking pots made of various fabrics (Bréand 2005). The signs are classified according to their formal appearance. The chronological range of their use runs from Naqada IID–IIIA1, for the most ancient sign, until the end of the occupation of the site at the end of Dynasty 3.

The study of the correlations between the carriers and the marks reveals the concomitant presence of similar signs placed on different types of pots destined for transport or storage, such as jars, or for food preparation, such as bread moulds and cooking pots. This situation leads us to reconsider the previous interpretations of the function of potmarks proposed by many scholars (van den Brink 1992, 276 n. 4) and to extend the possibilities of the discussion. One particular suggestion concerns the existence of scalable systems for counting in order to gain control of the production of the pots. One significant example of a particular group of signs is presented here in more detail, allowing us to open the debate.

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To reference this article we suggest:

Bréand, G. 2009. The corpus of pre-firing potmarks from Adaïma (Upper Egypt). BMSAES 13: 49–72.

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