pottery was made even in Neolithic times, for the Nile mud forms a fine plastic clay and sand is of course abundant. With these materials various kinds of pottery, often extremely well made and of good form, have been continuously produced for common domestic requirements, but such pottery was never glazed.
The wonderful glazes of the Egyptians were applied to a special preparation which can hardly be called pottery at all, it contained so little clay. Yet as early as the 1st Dynasty the Egyptians had learnt to shape little objects in this tender material and cover them with their wonderful turquoise glazes. We have therefore to study the development of two independent things: (1) the ordinary pottery of common clay left without glaze; (2) the brilliant glazed faience which appears to be special to Egypt, though it may have been the groundwork for the technique of the slip-faced painted and glazed pottery of the nearer East.
We probably do not possess any specimens of the most primitive Neolithic pottery; the oldest type known to us, the black and red ware of Ballas and Nagada (1), dates from the later Neolithic age, when copper was just beginning to be used. This ware is very hard and compact and the face is highly burnished. The red colour was produced by a wash of fine red clay; the black is an oxide of iron obtained by limiting the access of air in the process of baking, which was done, Professor Petrie suggests, by placing the pot’s mouth down in the kiln, and leaving the ashes over the part which was to be burnt black. Both red and black colour go right through in every case. All-red and all-black vases are occasionally found, the red with geometrical decorations in white colour, and the black with incised decoration. The forms are usually very simple, but at the same time graceful, and the grace of form is more remarkable when it is remembered that none of this early pottery was made on the wheel. Pottery of almost similar technique was found in Crete in 1905 during the American excavations at Vasiliki near Hierapetra. The general appearance of the Cretan pottery is much the same as that of the Egyptian, and the duller red and black decoration (which here has a spotted or mottled appearance) was probably obtained in the same way, the black spots being due to the action of separate fragments of the baking material. This discovery is important in view of the probable early connexion of the Cretan and Egyptian culture-centres.
A very similar red and black ware, usually of thinner and harder make, and often with a brighter surface, was introduced into Egypt at a later date (XIIth Dynasty), probably by Nubian tribes who were descended from relatives of the Neolithic Egyptians. From their characteristic graves these people are called the Pan-Grave people, and their pottery is known by the same name.
Perhaps rather later in date than the early red and black wares, but by no means certainly so, the second characteristic type of primeval Egyptian pottery is a ware of buff colour with surface decorations in red. These decorations are varied in character, including ships, birds and human figures; wavy lines and geometrical designs commonly occur. The whole facies of this ware seems very un-Egyptian, and it has been compared with the decorated “Kabyle pottery” of modern times. To call the people who made this ware “Libyans” on the strength of this resemblance of their pottery to that of the modern Kabyles, six thousand years later, seems, however, rash. The prehistoric Egyptians were not Kabyles or Libyans, but Nilotes, and the peculiar decoration of their pottery, which seems so strangely barbaric, is in reality merely the most ancient handiwork of the Egyptian painter, and marks the first stage in the development of pictorial art on the banks of the Nile (2). Other types of pottery (3), in colour chiefly buff or brown, were also in use at this period; the most noticeable form is a cylindrical vase with a wavy or rope band round it just below the lip, which developed out of a necked vase with a wavy handle on either side. This cylindrical type outlived the red and black and the red and buff decorated styles (which are purely Neolithic and predynastic) and continued in use in the early dynastic period, well into the Copper age. The other unglazed pottery of the first three dynasties is not very remarkable for beauty of form or colour, and is indeed of the roughest description (4), but under the IVth Dynasty we find beautiful wheel-made bowls, vases and vase-stands of a fine red polished ware (4). This fine ware continued in use at least as late as the XVIIIth Dynasty, though the forms of course differed from age to age. Under the XIIth Dynasty, and during the Middle Kingdom generally, either this or a coarser unpolished red ware was in use. The forms of this period are very characteristic (5); the vases are usually footless, and have a peculiar globular or drop-like shape—some small ones seem almost spherical. At this period the foreign “Pan-Grave” black and red pottery was also in use (see above).
The art of making a pottery consisting of a siliceous sandy body coated with a vitreous copper glaze seems to have been known unexpectedly early, possibly even as early as the period immediately preceding the Ist Dynasty (4000 B.C.). Under the XIIth Dynasty pottery made of this characteristic Egyptian faience seems to have come into general use, and it continued in use down to the days of the Romans, and is the ancestor of the glazed wares of the Arabs and their modern successors (6). The oldest Egyptian glazed ware is found usually in the shape of beads, plaques, &c.—rarely in the form of pottery vessels. The colour is usually a light blue, which may turn either white or green; but beads of the grey-black manganese colour are found, and on the light blue vases of King Aha (who is probably one of the historical originals of the legendary “Mena” or Menes) in the British Museum (No. 38,010) we have the king’s name traced in the manganese glaze on (or rather in) the blue-white glaze of the vase itself, for the second glaze is inlaid. This style of decoration in manganese black or purple on copper-blue continued till the end of the “New Empire” shortly before the XXVIth (Saite) Dynasty. It was not usual actually to inlay the decoration before the time of the XVIIIth Dynasty. The light blue glaze was used well into the time of the XIIth Dynasty (British Museum, No. 36,346), but was then displaced by a new tint, a brilliant turquoise blue, on which the black decoration shows up in sharper contrast than before. This blue, and a somewhat duller, greyer or greener tint was used at the time for small figures, beads and vases, as well as for the glaze of scarabs, which, however, were usually of stone-schist or steatite —not faience. The characteristically Egyptian technique of glazed stone begins about this period, and not only steatite or schist was employed (on account of its softness), but a remarkably brilliant effect was obtained by glazing hard shining white quartzite with the wonderfully delicate XIIth Dynasty blue. A fragment of a statuette plinth of this beautiful material was obtained during the excavation of the XIth Dynasty temple at Deir el-Bahri in 1904 (British Museum, No. 40,948). Vessels of diorite and other hard stones are also found coated with the blue glaze. A good specimen of the finest XIIth Dynasty blue-glazed faience is the small vase of King Senwosri I. (2400 B.C.) in the Cairo Museum (No. 3666) (6). The blue-glazed hippopotami of this period, with the reeds and water-plants in purplish black upon their bodies to indicate their habitat, are well known. Fine specimens of these are in the collection of the Rev. Wm. MacGregor at Tamworth (8).
The blue glaze of the XIIth Dynasty deepened in colour under the XIIIth, to which the fine blue bowls with designs (in the manganese black) of fish and lotus plants belong (8) (British Museum, Nos. 4790, &c.). The finest specimens of XVIIIth Dynasty blue ware have come from Deir el-Bahri, in the neighbourhood of which place there may have been a factory for the manufacture of votive bowls, cups, beads, &c., of this fine faience, for dedication by pilgrims in the temple of Hathor (good collection in British Museum). Towards the end of this dynasty polychrome glazes came into fashion; white, light and dark blue, violet, purple, red, bright yellow, apple-green and other tints were used, not only for smaller objects of faience, such as rings, scarabs, kohl-pots, &c., but also for vases, e.g. No. 3965 of the Cairo Museum (Amenophis III. wine-bottle), the ground colour of which is white with a decoration of flower wreaths in blue, yellow and red, with an inscription in delicate blue (6). This