(The stone usually called alabaster in Egyptology is geologically more correctly named travertine; the mineral term calcite is also used in recent publications and is the term used in Digital Egypt for Universities)
Alabaster is a rock, which consists of fine-grained granular aggregate of gypsum, while the mineral gypsum is a hydrated calcium sulphate (CaSO4 . 2H2O). Being porous, the material may disintegrate if used as container for water or other liquids. Gypsum vessels are therefore often specially made only for funerary use. Alabaster was mainly used in the Early Dynastic Period for making vessels. It can also be burnt to produce gypsum plaster, for which a heating of 100º - 200º C were required. (By contrast, burning limestone requires a temperature of about 900º - and is not attested in Egypt before the Ptolemaic Period).
Egyptian name: qD, HDt ?
all vessels from Tarkhan, about First Dynasty
Copyright © 2002 University College London. All rights reserved.