October 20, 2012

Lesser Industries in Ancient Egypt

Lesser Industries
Other industries produced leather, papyrus, bricks, glass, pottery, jewellery and copperware. The coppersmith, who supplied the tools necessary for shipbuilding, quarrying stone for funerary monuments and for fashioning murals and statues, had a busy workshop. It was also his responsibility to make copper drains for the earliest plumbing and the various implements required for Egyptian agriculture. Craftsmen of high order developed from early times and there was a tendency for children to ply the trades of their fathers, at first making themselves useful around the workshops and then working as apprentices.

The Egyptian tomb of Ti records the goldsmith’s factory and the different stages of the production of jewellery. Ti himself watches the head goldsmith weighing the precious metal that was brought from the alluvial sands of the eastern desert, while scribes record it. Workers are depicted casting, soldering and fitting together a rich assortment of fine jewellery. Six men direct their blowpipes to the flames in a clay furnace. Beside them a workman pours the molten metal. On the extreme right four men beat gold-leaf. Some of the engravers who are seated on low benches are dwarfs. Pieces of turquoise, cut or ground into tiny pieces, are inlaid with precision, soldered and fitted into exquisite necklets and other items of adornment.

Carpentry was a highly developed industry. As already mentioned furniture was often overlaid with gold and silver. Ancient Egyptian Carpenters used hammers and mallets, saws with teeth slanting towards the handle indicating that they were pulled not pushed, and bow-drills for making holes. Leather-production, too, had long been mastered and the curing of hides produced soft, fine-quality skins. These were dyed in various colours and used to cover stools, chairs, beds and cushions as well as to fashion sandals.

The glass-maker supervised the production of multi-coloured glass bottles and vases which were widely exported. Tiles were also decorated by spreading the molten liquid and glazing them with rich colour. These were used to adorn palace and tomb walls. Although serving a utilitarian purpose, most of the products manufactured in ancient Egypt were fashioned with a fine sense of balance and an unconscious desire for beauty. Stone vessels, for example, were created in perfect symmetry, the flint borers with which they were made in pre-dynastic times were superseded by a cranked brace with weights acting as a flywheel for hollowing. Unfortunately the ancient Egyptian industry of stone-vessel manufacture was largely outmoded by the potter when he began to fashion his ware with the aid of a horizontal wheel. Deftly guiding the swirling vessel with his hands, his rate of production was much larger, and he was able to fulfil the demand for vessels for storage and eating purposes. Egypt was rich in clays, and pottery was produced on a large scale. By the Old Kingdom, the days of irregular burning in an open fire at the mercy of the wind had passed; the potter had rows of closed furnaces to achieve uniform firing.

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