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Document Details :
Title: Large Lead Containers from Thonis-Heraclion, Egypt
Subtitle: Metal Storage Vessels?
Author(s): VAN DER WILT, Elsbeth M.
Volume: 40 Date: 2014
Underwater excavations in Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt, continue to yield large numbers of bronze and lead objects. In this paper, I discuss the dating and function of a group of nine exceptionally large lead containers in one of the ancient waterways of this Egyptian port city. Ranging in diameter from 50 to 120 cm, they are the largest objects made of lead found at the site and unique in the archaeological record. Their size, shape, and archaeological context are described before presenting parallels in different material in order to better understand their function and current location. Similar ceramic examples indicate that the metal containers were most likely used for storage of foodstuffs, such as liquids or cereals, perhaps as part of temple facilities. The framework derived from the archaeological context suggests a late fifth to early third century B.C. date, which is significantly earlier than other lead objects of considerable size. It is likely that the containers in the canal are associated with wooden poles preserved in the vicinity, creating a wooden moorage or stabilizing a narrow island. A hypothesis is advanced that they were part of a storage facility for rituals, possibly involving water offerings, conducted in this area.