Conference paper "Pollen Residues and the Liquid Commodities Trade between Egypt and the Levant in the Old Kingdom"

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Thin-section petrography of imported Combed jars has revealed the intensity of exchange relationships between Egypt and the Central Levant during the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BC). Results confirm that the region of northern Lebanon – which includes the city of Byblos – enjoyed an enduring trade relationship with the Egyptian state for hundreds of years.

Egyptian textual evidence indicates that jars were associated with the importation of oils, notably ‘š-oil from coniferous trees and sft-oil, but the scientific basis of this identification is slender. Indeed, until now the nature of the contents has been unclear, despite limited early analytical work.

Recent residue analysis, including GC-MS, on a limited number of samples taken from Combed jars held in the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), shows that the picture is more complex than assumed in the ancient literature and modern scholarship. Results reveal a high degree of variation in the nature of the residues present, while archaeological evidence shows that the jars themselves were re-used in Egypt.

Further adding to this picture, multi-proxy micro-botanical analysis suggests evidence of some plant presence. Swabs taken from the interior walls of the jars show traces of pollen grains, phytoliths, and fatty acids. The scanning electron microscope – SEM results indicate presence of poplar (Populus sp.), wild grass (Poaceae), sage (Salvia sp.), and olive (Olea europaea), suggesting exposure of the vessels to these vegetation during the period of active use.
Period21 Nov 2020
Event titleAmerican School of Oriental Research Annual Meeting
Event typeConference
LocationAlexandria, VA, United States, VirginiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational