Based on our current awareness, there are three distinct primary sources of alkali flux in the ancient Egyptian faience making: natron, soda rich plant ash and the so-called ‘mixed alkali fluxes’. Whereas the nature and origin of the first two types are identified to some extent, there are more questions regarding mixed alkali fluxes. In an attempt to provide further clarification on the latter source, a series of replication experiments on the production of Egyptian faience by the cementation glazing method were conducted using cattle dung ash as the source of alkali flux. After firing at 980 °C, the appearance of the faience objects, the microstructure and the chemical composition of selected samples obtained using scanning electron microscopy/energy-dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) were investigated. The discussion has primarily focused on cattle dung ash as the most, or one of the most, available sources of ash in ancient societies and its possible use as a source of alkali flux in the production of Egyptian faience, at least by the cementation glazing method.
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This project was financed by the Shex Porcelain Co. The authors wish to thank Yazdan Ghasseminia for his contribution in the preparation of raw materials and replication samples, and Sadjad Zamani for providing raw materials from Yazd. Mahmoud Nader is thanked for his help with the figures and photographs. We are also grateful to the anonymous referees for their detailed comments, which have significantly improved the original manuscript.
This paper is dedicated to the late Dr. Hans E. Wulff who conducted pioneering studies on the cementation glazing process.
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Matin, M., Matin, M. Egyptian faience glazing by the cementation method part 2: cattle dung ash as a possible source of alkali flux. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 8, 125–134 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-014-0218-z