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Lot 0001A
Ancient Egypt, Predynastic period, late Naqada II to Naqada III, ca. 3200 to 3000 BCE. An enormous hand-built marl clay jar with a russet-hued surface made with a thin iron-oxide slip. The burnished vessel has a tapering ovoid form with a petite circular rim and a rounded shoulder leading to a round, everted rim. The upper black-hued portion is comprised of thick carbon deposits formed by administering the top to thick clouds of smoke for extended periods of time in an oxygen-deprived environment. Black-top vessels originally rose in popularity during the early Naqada I, a culture which inhabited ancient Egypt during its predynastic period. The Naqada were first described by famed archaeologist William Flinders Petrie; however, relatively little is known about them except that they were focused around the site of El-Amra in central Egypt, west of the Nile River. Custom metal display stand included. Size: 8.7" W x 18.875" H (22.1 cm x 47.9 cm); 19.4" H (49.3 cm) on included custom stand.

Predynastic Egyptian black-topped vessels were traditionally made from silt deposits taken from the Nile river due to their abundance in iron and silica. After the pot had dried but before it was fired, it would first be burnished and rubbed smooth with a small stone to create the pinstripe vertical striations still visible today. An iron-rich slip would then be applied just before firing; when placed in an oxygen-rich environment, the elevated temperatures would create the vessels' signature red-orange hue.

After the end of the Naqada III period around 3,000 BCE, the use of Nile silt in pottery creations fell out of favor with the Predynastic Egyptians. This was due to the increase in the popularity of marl clay, a newly-discovered mixture of clay and lime used for creating terracotta objects. Marl vessels like this example were generally easier to form, required higher temperatures when firing which allowed for more controlled kiln environments, and were more receptive to applied decorations than the inferior, highly-porous Nile silt. A few blacktop examples have been found from later Dynastic periods, however they were likely used solely for ritualistic and/or ceremonial purposes.

For a stylistically-similar example from the Naqada II, please see The British Museum, museum number EA58522: https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=149013&partId=1&images=true

Another stylistically-similar example from the Naqada I hammered for GBP 12,500 ($16,181.22) at Christie's, London, South Kensington Antiquities Auction (sale 7207, October 25, 2012, lot 31): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/an-egyptian-black-topped-redware-jar-predynastic-naqada-5609465-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5609465&sid=8ffd06a8-5333-4917-962c-83541e97942e

This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) analysis and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Norman Blankman collection, New York, USA, acquired 1959

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#139690

Condition

Many chips and nicks to rim and upper shoulder filled in and resurfaced with new material and overpainted with black pigment. Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, minor nicks to base, body, and rim, with light fading to red and black colors in some areas, and light encrustations, otherwise intact and near-choice. Nice earthen deposits and manganese blooms throughout. Two TL drill holes: one on base, and one just beneath rim on neck.

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Huge Egyptian Predynastic Black-Top Pottery Jar w/ TL

Estimate $17,500 - $25,000Oct 11, 2018