Throughout the 4th to 6th Dynasties of the Old Kingdom (c. 2613–2181 BCE), liquid commodities were imported in ceramic combed jars made in workshops in the Byblos region, enabling proximal geographic identification of the original contents. Results of scientific, archaeometric, and archaeological research on a large corpus of jars found in elite tombs at Giza, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reveal a complex story of the use and reuse of the jars and that very little remains of the original and even secondary contents. Rather, from the moment of production, the jars had a complex itinerary. At different times, jars were invested with diverse meanings that included their original use as a transport and product container, a symbol of royal power, an elite status symbol, and, more recently, a 20th-century museum artifact. It is argued that a number of jars were used more than once before final deposition in elite tombs, where they were provided as gifts to high officials and royal family members. The jars acquired the significance of prestige markers in the status framework of Egyptian elites, signifying proximity to royal grace and favor. As a result of ancient use and modern interventions, the original contents of the jars are difficult to discern, with wider implications for how to characterize the liquid commodities trade with the region.
Egypt; Lebanon; Old Kingdom; resins; trade; Giza; ceramics; residues; radiocarbon dating
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