Marvels of Materials: Authored by Doug Braun, Binghamton University

Egyptian faience

Egyptian faience is a vitreous ceramic coating that was first developed in the fifth millennium BCE. Egyptian faience was made by heating crushed quartz or sand, lime, and natron or plant ash. Copper was also added to this mixture to obtain the bright turquoise color visible on these shawabtis, amulets, and beads. However, objects were often colored white with faience as well, which can be seen on some of the amulets here. White coloring was made simply by omitting any colorant to the faience during its manufacture. Many materials used to create faience were locally sourced within Egypt, and faience production flourished within Egypt. Colorants such as iron oxide for yellow, cobalt for deep blue, and manganese for purple were all supplied locally. However, these colors were much less common than blue or green. The only non-native material used for faience was the copper used to make faience blue or green, which was sourced from around the Mediterranean basin, from places such as Cyprus, Asia Minor, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Aegean Sea. Faience became a popular material for the production of amulets, figurines, vessels, and architectural materials from the Predynastic period through the Roman conquest millennia later.


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