Juliet Spedding
<[email protected]>

I first attended the University of Liverpool in 2011 on the BA programme of Egyptian Archaeology.  It was during this degree that I further developed an interest in Nubia and its history, focusing on statues of the 25th Dynasty for my dissertation.  This interest in Nubia and a previous background in the sciences would come together during my MA in Egyptology where I focused my research on an analytical study of faience from Nubia.


I am currently a third year PhD student at the University of Liverpool.  My research has now expanded from faience to another vitreous material, glass.  My interests include Nubian and Egyptian history and how examination of artefacts through the field of materials science can further our understanding of a particular culture and the relationships of cultures; how they connected, interacted, borrowed ideas from each other, and how the use of analytical methods can be used alongside textual and archaeological evidence to further our understanding of people of the past.


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Indian Glass in Ancient Nubia
Juliet Spedding*
*Postgraduate Researcher University of Liverpool, Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology
University of Liverpool, 12-14 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 7WZ


Ancient Nubian glassware is an under-examined
area of research.  My work uses scientific analysis to identify raw materials and production techniques of Nubian-provenanced glass artefacts from the Meroitic Period (c.400BC-c.AD400) and X-Group/Ballana Culture (c.AD400-600) at the Lower Nubian sites of Faras and Qasr Ibrim in the north and Upper Nubian sites Meroe and Gabati in the south (see map).   From this analysis arises certain questions; was glass being made in Nubia or imported, either as raw materials, ingots, or finished objects? How would a greater understanding of such artefacts help us to situate Nubian glass and its making/working and consumption in the larger picture of glass production and trade in the ancient Mediterranean and Egyptian worlds?  What are the interrelationships between trade, technological knowledge, and manufacturing in Nubia and other cultures?

Rehren and Freestone (2015) acknowledge that there are gaps in our geographical and chronological knowledge of ancient glass compositions, citing the early Iron Age to Hellenistic periods in the Mediterranean, but Nubia should also be considered.  My research aims to fill some of these gaps and to
explore Nubia’s contribution.

My work, using scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS), has the potential to identify similarities and/or differences in the raw materials used, the alkali source, deliberate or accidental use of natural contaminants (e.g. iron, lime), and the production techniques of the finished objects.  Such technological choices were influenced by internal and external factors other than simply the availability of resources.

My analysis has indicated that many different types of glass were present in Nubia across the four sites, implying that at least some had been traded over great distances.  Most notably, and the focus of this presentation, is certain coloured glass from the Lower Nubian site of Faras (see images).  Analysis and then comparison of these results from Faras to previously published analysis of glass objects from India [Kanungo and Brill, 2009] and South East Asia [Lankton and Dussubieux, 2006] has enabled me, for the first time, to identify this glass from Faras as a known type of SE Asian origin.

My identification of the origin of this coloured glass begs the question of how it might have travelled from India to end up in a child’s grave in Nubia.  It also raises questions about what proportion of glass objects found in the Near East and the Mediterranean originated in India and what else (ideas, customs, traditions) might have travelled with such items and what influence such interactions might have had.