Wavy-handled jar with cross-hatched design

Jar of “W class” or “Wavy-handled” class, with characteristic motifs of ochre lines which cross-hatch down the entire body and which appear to have been copied from basket weaving patterns. This type of jar was principally made in the Naqada III period, in a relatively short space to time. For this reason the archaeological pioneer, Flinders Petrie, used them along with all of the typologies of pottery jars found, as a criterion to establish a relative chronology, a Sequence Dating, of the tombs which contained the pieces.

The wavy decoration near the lip of the jar is an evolution from the primitive handles that had disappeared, and had now turned into simple motifs of decoration. This type of opulent pottery formed a part of the grave good and contained organic substances which were sometimes burnt. However, these jars could also be used for transporting liquids.

This type of vessel most surely originated in Palestine, and was imported into Egypt along with its contents. Very soon Egyptian potters tried to imitate them. The jar is handmade from an orange-pink clay which came from the deposits on the alluvial plains of the Nile, and is decorated with iron oxide. Some of them may have on occasion vegetal or mineral elements added to reduce the grease in the clay, to make it more compact and give it greater resistance both before and after the firing. The body of the vessel was possibly formed from rolls of clay, one placed on top of the other, and finished with the appropriate tools. The lip would be added to the completed jar, and then the final form and smoothing of the surface was achieved using a potter´s wheel. The wavy handles, transformed into simple lines, were added to the body of the vessel and modelled with the hands and specific tools.

The period before the unification of the Nile valley is known by the name of the Protodynastic Period. It corresponds to the Copper Age or the Chalcolithic period, and in this period artistic conventions were established and also the bases of political structures of the following Egypt of the Pharaohs. In Upper Egypt the village of El-Badari became the nucleus of the settlements known as Badarian (4400-3800 BC), and was succeeded by the Amratian or the Naqada I, the Gerzean or Naqada II (3500-3200 BC) and the Late Gerzean, called Semainian or Naqada III (3200-3000 BC). Testimony to all of these cultures remained in their pottery and ornamental objects as well as through implements for hunting, fishing and agriculture, although the latter was less developed in the Delta.

In contrast to the earlier Badarian Culture, in Naqada I social stratification, better pottery skills and new artistic forms start to appear, and this extended further to the south. The name was given to this period by Werner Kaiser and it comes from the city of Naqada situated on the banks of the Nile 25 kilometres north of Luxor. Practically all the existing material culture from these periods comes from burials. These all have similar characteristics: a hole in the desert where the deceased was deposited in a foetal position. The dryness of the desert mummified the body, preserving it for eternity. Around this the grave goods were placed consisting principally of jewellery, jars such as this one, both in terracotta and stone, palettes for cosmetics, knives and other objects made from flint. Although we are only dealing with a formational period, real works of art were produced and this is the moment of splendour for pottery vessels as well as for a great variety of forms and typologies of stone vessels. Today, one of these burial sites can be seen in the British Museum in London.

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