The Wendorf Pottery Collection

The pottery collection consists of 14,285 pottery sherds, including some worked sherds used as tools, four entire vessels and half of a big pot. There are also thin sections of prehistoric sherds and clay samples, both from the Western Desert.

The chronological and spatial distribution of the pottery covers a vast geotemporal range. The main pottery groups, dated from around 8000 BC to the first centuries AD, come from the Fayum, the Egyptian Oasis (Kharga, Dunqul and Kurkur), the Egyptian Western Desert including the Gilf Kebir and Nabta-Kiseiba areas, the Nubian Nile Valley (2nd Cataract and Debba-Korti regions), and the south-eastern Sudanese Butana Region.

Most of the material was briefly studied and published many years ago, but new analyses are most welcome.

The importance of this heterogeneous collection lies in its variety and uniqueness. Of particular interest are:

  1. the collection of Early Holocene Nubian pottery, one of the oldest in Africa, that reveals the spectrum of manufacturing techniques from the Western Desert, the Oasis, Lower Nubia and the Dongola Reach
  2. the oldest Neolithic Red Polished Black Topped Wares from the Nile Basin, a type common to the Nubian cultures, as well as, the Badarian culture from Upper Egypt

the Rippled Wares, which resemble those from the Late Nubian Neolithic and Badarian periods. The later examples clearly indicate the extensive relationship between Nubia and Egypt in prehistory, and the assimilation of the African component into the Pharaonic culture

The collection also includes a pottery selection from site BS-21, a pottery cache discovered near Bir Sahara along one of the Western Desert routes connecting Upper Egypt, the Oasis and Nubia. The vessels in the Wendorf Collection consist of two Predynastic bowls, one conical ceramic vessel without a base (known as Clayton ring) and two ceramic disks. They were found together with other Predynastic and A-Group vessels, Clayton rings and disks (currently stored in Egypt), and dated to the end of the 4th millennium BC. These are the only known Predynastic and A-Group ceramic vessels from this secluded region of the Egyptian desert that is so distant from the Nile Valley.

The addition of the Wendorf pottery collection to the other prehistoric pottery collections already curated in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan makes the British Museum a foremost centre for the study of prehistoric Nile Valley ceramics.