The pottery from the debris in the wall trench area was copious. Over 25,000 potsherds were recovered from the 5x5m excavation square and of these over 5,000 were identifiable rims and bases, but the number of different shapes was very limited. The ceramic material was first sorted and recorded by Kathryn Piquette. Then we attempted to mend the most common yet unusual shapes in order to obtain a full profile. Although our success was limited, it was still rather remarkable considering the context. By far the most common shape was a jar in the fine Nile silt fabric with a red coated surface that is never polished--a rarity in Upper Egypt where red coated pottery is always polished or burnished to a high sheen--with a small flat base and a collared rim. When this type of vessel was first encountered in 1985-1986, it reminded the ceramic analyst of the time (Renée) of the bottles used to serve sake or rice wine in Japanese restaurants. (Back then, the cuisine at Hierakonpolis was limited and many thoughts centered longingly on food.) Subsequent finds indicated that the jar was less elegant in shape than previously imagined, but the name "sake jar" stuck to refer to these unique vessels that are found at no other site in Egypt and are extremely rare at any other location within Hierakonpolis itself. The lack of wear and scratch marks on the bases suggest that they were used once and thrown away.
Almost as prevalent is the black egg. This is an egg shaped jar with often exquisitely thin walls, fired all black and polished to a fine sheen. The all black color is especially rare in predynastic Upper Egypt where the fine pottery is usually black-topped red like the next most common vessel at the temple, the black-topped beaker. This narrow little cups had flaring rims that were blackened by placing the red coated pot rim down in smoldering saw dust. Production areas for the manufacture of this type of pottery have been found back in the hills above the wadi that bisects the site. There the potters could take advantage of the prevailing north wind, a supply of acacia wood, and, in the winter, a running stream. They also preferred the wadi clays for the manufacture of this fine and thin ceramic ware. Like all pottery of the predynastic period, the vessels from the temple are all hand made.
Among the coarser, kitchen-type wares, there are elliptical platters and funny bowler-hat shaped cups with wide flaring rims. They are made from local clays mixed with straw as temper. These occur in their hundreds in the temple deposits and we thought twice about trying to make any mends.
This assemblage is far different from what one finds elsewhere across the site, which is dominated by a wider array of coarser domestic wares: cooking pots, storage jars, eating and serving bowls, etc. The fine red polished or black-topped pottery makes up only a small percentage in such deposits and comes in the form of red polished bowls or black-topped jars and large, more functional, beakers.
The temple deposits also contained a large number of tool sherds. Potsherds that had been ground down for use as something else: we have ovals, which may have been scrapers of some type, and then there are the pierced disks that are possibly spindle whorls, but these are much less prevalent. A few exotic pots also make an appearance: pottery imported from the Delta with impressed and incised decoration and some jars from Palestine.
What the temple pottery was used for remains a mystery. The contrast between the matte red surface of the sake jar with the highly lustrous black eggs must have had symbolic significance. Alternatively, they were the custom made set of signature place settings at Hierakonpolis' most exclusive restaurant. Where else would need identical place settings for over 200? The courtyard would certainly have provided a romantic setting for outside dining or perhaps after-dinner dancing.