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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/23182

Title: The Pharaonic pottery of the Abu Ballas Trail: ‘Filling stations’ along a desert highway in southwestern Egypt
Authors: Hendrickx, Stan
Eyckerman, Merel
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Heinrich Barth Institute
Citation: Förster, Frank; Riemer, Heiko (Ed.). Desert road archaeology in the ancient Egypt and beyond, Heinrich Barth Institute, p. 339-379
Series/Report: Africa Praehistorica
Series/Report no.: 27
Abstract: The Abu Ballas Trail in the Libyan Desert (SW Egypt) consists of about thirty archaeological sites along an ancient donkey caravan route, and runs almost straight from Dakhla Oasis towards the Gilf Kebir Plateau, covering about 400 km. Large storage jars for water are the main finds at these sites, and the jars occur in varying numbers and different states of preservation. Through study of the pottery, several chronological phases of trail use have been recognized. The earliest use dates to the late Old Kingdom or early First Intermediate Period (around 2200/2100 BC). It is the best documented period because pottery from that time has been found at nearly all of the sites, although the amount of vessels and the composition of the types varies. No doubt the variability in vessel amounts and types is due to functional differences between the individual sites. The donkeys must have been watered at the main stations, including the eponymous Abu Ballas or ‘Pottery Hill’ site, because of the large amount of storage jars found there (up to more than a hundred). The distances between the main supply depots are roughly equal and most probably relate to the donkey’s ability to go without water for two or three days. Vats and different types of cups and bowls illustrate the organisation of the people accompanying the caravans and/or the men stationed at the individual sites to keep watch over the provisions. The intermittent sites contain far less pottery and can be considered temporary camp sites or places where vessels accidently broken during transport were left behind. The fabrics and vessel shapes of the late Old Kingdom / early First Intermediate Period are strikingly similar to those from the residence of the Egyptian governors at Balat/Ayn Asil in the eastern part of Dakhla, where the Abu Ballas Trail apparently had its departure point. There are, as yet, no vessels of the Middle Kingdom and only very few that can be attributed to the Second Intermediate Period, but two different phases of the New Kingdom are well represented: the later 18th dynasty and the Ramesside Period. In addition to a general presentation of the pottery found along the trail, this article will focus on an ancient ‘technique’ of long-distance desert travel: the use of pottery deposits as artificial water reservoirs in order to facilitate the crossing of barren desert regions. This ‘technique’ has even been reported by Herodotus (III, 6–7) and the Abu Ballas Trail is currently the best example.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/23182
ISBN: 9783927688414
ISSN: 0947-2673
Category: B2
Type: Book Section
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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