Monash University

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Craft Specialisation in Predynastic Egypt: The Production and Distribution of Decorated Ware (D-Ware) in the Naqada II and III Periods

posted on 2017-01-12, 06:10 authored by Jessica Lynette Cox
This thesis focuses on the production and distribution of the iconic Upper Egyptian Decorated Ware (D-Ware) that was produced between c. 3600 and 3100 BCE in the hope that this may shed some light on the socio-economic atmosphere of Egypt prior to political unification in 3100 BCE. The nature and extent of Predynastic Egyptian craft specialisation and socioeconomic interaction between different sites throughout Upper, Middle and Lower Egypt is not yet properly understood. To date, there has been no study that takes into account the entire corpus of D-Ware vessels and due to the unique nature of the decoration, it it was thought that centres of manufacture may be discernible when undertaking a detailed formal analysis.
   The formal analysis of the painted decoration and vessel morphology revealed that there is evidence of both standardisation and diversification among the D-Ware assemblage. This tells us that by the Naqada II period, there was a high degree of control over the production of D-Ware vessels, which could be interpreted as an indication of centralisation, as evidenced by increasing standardisation of both geometric and figurative designs as well as vessel shape. The variation that we see in the Naqada II period reflects the increasing diversity of a complex society with different social segments having different demands. This is particularly evident in the Naqada IIC to IID period when we have extremely diverse designs, ranging from simple to complex geometric patterns, standardised figurative designs and unique elaborate scenes painted on uncommon vessel shapes. It is clear that the D-Ware industry is serving a wide variety of consumers at this time. This picture changes in the Naqada III period, when the designs, and vessel forms, become much more standardised. The figurative designs disappear indicating some kind of power shift in this period. This power shift can likely be attributed to the consolidation of power by the upper echelons of the elite at this time.
   This thesis also determined that D-Ware was being produced at multiple sites. In the Naqada II period, the geometrically decorated vessels were likely produced in the Naqada, Abydos and Badari regions. Figurative vessels, on the other hand, seem to have been predominantly produced in the Abydos region, with boat vessels also likely being produced at Naqada. By the Naqada III period, vessels were no longer being produced at the site of Naqada. The main centres for production at this time were the Badari and Abydos regions, with the Hierakonpolis region also a definite candidate.
   One of the main aims of this thesis was to see if the distribution of D-Ware could shed some light on the changing relationships between different sites and regions throughout the Naqada II and III periods and between Egypt and neighbouring nations. At the outset, this seemed like a straightforward challenge but the lack of regional variation within the D-Ware corpus made this impossible.


Principal supervisor

Colin Hope

Additional supervisor 1

Ashten Warfe

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Philosophical, Historical and International Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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