Watch and Listen

Predynastic black-topped vessel

Manufactured in the middle of the IVth millennium BC in Upper Egypt, this vessel has a surprisingly modern appearance, with a shiny red body and black rim.

Predynastic black-topped vessel
Predynastic period, Naqada IIC, 3rd quarter IVth millennium BC
el-Amra, Egypt
Nile silt and hematite slip
36 x 19.3 cm

Narrated by Dr Xavier Droux, curator collection Archaeology

This sleek vessel looks like it came straight out of the workshop of a modern potter. However, it is nearly 56 centuries old and was found during British archaeological excavations in 1900-1901 in Cemetery A at al-Amra, Upper Egypt.

In the so-called Predynastic period, long before the Pharaohs ruled Egypt, a high quality, beautifully polished ceramic was produced from Nile silt. A technologically complex process that probably required two successive firings resulted in vibrant colours: black with metallic shine and brilliant red.

Later, at the dawn of the historical era, stone became the material of choice for luxury vessels, with a wealth of minerals to choose from, such as the red breccia used for this jar.