This black-topped redware vessel is dated to Egypt’s predynastic period. The period and pottery are often referred to as Naqada, which in turn is dissected into a further three groups; I, II and III. This dissection refers to pottery from a certain time period. The first Egyptologyst to categorise the predynastic pottery was Flanders Petrie, who grouped pieces into nine distinct groups. Black-topped pottery, distinct in its style, features early on the repertoire, dated from 4000 BC to 33oo BC. The term Naqada was taken from a town of the same name, located north of Luxor, where material culture was first discovered. The subsequent Naqada groups were then labelled with further names, to show a differentiation in their pottery styles. Naqada I, which dates to circa 4000 – 3500 BC, was labelled Amratian, named after the archaeological site of el-Amra. Naqada II is also known as the Gerzeh culture, again named after an archaeological site of the same name. It dates from 3500 to 3200 BC. Pottery and artefacts from this period differ from the preceding group, with a more conscious effort to include decoration. Pottery included stylised animals and natural environment, and forms became more elaborate. The last culture, Naqada III, is also labelled as the Protodynastic Period, dating from circa 3200 BC to 3000 BC. This period sees the emergence of Egypt’s first kings and the recording of hieroglyphs.
Black-topped pottery were discovered within burial sites, meaning their function was purely ritual and funerary. Based on the hes-jar vessel, they would have been used to pour libations at temples and burial sites. The vibrant red colouring is a result of the natural iron found in the Nile silt used. The black top was created from a combined process, involving dipping the kiln-hot vessel into sawdust.
For an overview on Egyptian art, please see our relevant blog: A Brief Overview of Egyptian Art History.