Marvels of Materials: Authored by Doug Braun, Binghamton University


Travertine, also known as Egyptian alabaster, is a form of limestone which largely consists of calcite and aragonite. Travertine was a popular material for use in both architectural features and  smaller-scale objects such as bowls, statuettes, and canopic jars like the one displayed here. The stone was locally sourced, with the best known quarries being near Amarna in Middle Egypt. These quarries were exploited by the Egyptians for almost 3000 years, seeing continuous use from the 4th Dynasty in the 3rd millennium BCE, all the way to the Roman period. A stone vessel like this canopic jar would have been of high value due to the sheer amount of work it may have taken an artisan to carve such a piece, especially when compared to the relatively quick and cheap production of clay vessels.

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