Enigmatic Material from the Time of the Egyptian Pyramid Builders

There are many myths surrounding metalworking technologies from the time of the ancient Egyptian pyramid builders. The most common are that no tools have been preserved for research and that ancient Egyptians were only familiar with pure copper. Neither is correct, however: a recent study by Czech researchers, published in the renowned international Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, enriched our knowledge of Old Kingdom metalworking technology based on archaeological material originating from Giza.

Giza, dolny lewy owal zaznacza miejsce, z którego pochodzą badane zabytki fot. M. Odler © Filozofická fakulta, Univerzita Karlova, Praha, Český egyptologický ústav
Giza, the bottom-left oval marks the place where the studied finds originated
photo Martin Odler © Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Czech Institute of Egyptology

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Animal dung as a strategic resource in the kingdom of Mari

Kings of Mari controlled an important trade route in the valley of the Euphrates River in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BCE. Although their country was situated in an area with unfavourable conditions for agriculture, the economy of the kingdom of Mari could support a big population. The key to understanding this paradox is animal dung.

The kingdom of Mari was the most powerful country of north Mesopotamia in the 3rd and early 2nd millennium BC. Its power is reflected both by the size of its capital (modern archaeological site of Tell Hariri), which occupied an area of more than 60 hectares – more than Cracow in the 13th century – and by the fact that six of its rulers were included in the Sumerian King List, that is a record of the dynasties that were regarded as those holding superior power in Sumer. The dynasty from Mari was the only dynasty from north Mesopotamia on this list. 

Sala tronowa w pałacu Zimri-Lima, ostatniego króla Mari fot. Herbert Frank (opublikowano na licencji CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
The throne room in the palace of Zimri-Lima, the last Mari king
Photo: Herbert Frank
(Published under CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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