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Artefact ID23
Findspot (DEChriM ID)34   (Ǧabal al-Ṭārif)
ClassCooking/table/transport/storage ware

Bowl believed to have been used as a lid covering the jar said to have contained the Naǧʿ Ḥammādī codices. The bowl corresponds to the Gempeler T210B and probably also Bailey C407 types. It is a local imitation of North-African terra sigillata in Aswān clay, with an orange polished slip and painted decoration on the rim (group O of Rodziewicz 1976). The production of these bowls is situated between the last quarter of the fourth and the first half of the sixth century, although rare examples datable probably to the mid-seventh century were found at al-Ṭūd (Pierrat 1995: 35-36; Pierrat 1996: pl. 8 and fig. 115-116). A similar bowl found probably at Aḫmīm was recently dated to the 2nd-3rd century CE (El-Sayed and Lakomy 2017; El-Sayed, Lakomy, Ehler, Fluck, Herzberg-Beiersdorf and Zorn 2021: 270), but the dating in this case is questionable.

On the outer surface, the bowl features black traces of an organic substance, maybe resin. Descriptions of this substance as bitumen (Robinson 1977: 21; Robinson 1981: 38; Robinson 1990: 23; Robinson 1997: 6) or as tar-like (Goehring 2006: 363) are directly related to the overall interpretation of the object (lid of the jar containing the Naǧʿ Ḥammādī codices) in the narratives produced by James M. Robinson and embraced in both scholarship and the wider audience. The substance has not been subjected to testing.

Selection criteriaArchaeological context associated with Christian markers
Date from375
Date to550
Dating criteriaChrono-typology
Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

Uncertain. According to one of James M. Robinsonʼs versions of the narrative of the discovery of the Naǧʿ Ḥammādī codices (Robinson 1977a: 21; Robinson 1977b: 2; Robinson 1979: 213-214; Robinson 1981: 37-38; Robinson 1984: 104), the bowl would have been taken from the findspot of the manuscripts by Ḫalīfa ʿAlī, brother of Muḥammad ʿAlī Ḫalīfa al-Sammān, the supposed ʻdiscovererʼ. Ḫalīfa would have then left it in the house of the Coptic family of Sāmī ʿAbd al-Malāk, for whom he worked as a camel driver. In 1976, Robinson acquired it from Ṣālib ʿAbd al-Masīḥ, Sāmīʼs nephew, for the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity of Claremont Graduate University. The bowl was finally purchased in the 1990s by The Schøyen Collection. Doubts in regards to Robinsonʼs narrative(s) were expressed by Wilfred Griggs (Griggs 1990: 176, 217 [n. 20]), one of the members of the team that carried out excavations at Ǧabal al-Ṭārif.

Accession number

Oslo, Schøyen Collection, MS 1804/7


• Ghica, Victor. 2019. “L’archéologie du monachisme égyptien au ive siècle: état de la question.In Nag Hammadi à 70 ans. Qu’avons nous appris ? Nag Hammadi at 70: What Have We Learned? (Colloque international, Québec, Université Laval, 29-31 mai 2015), edited by E. Crégheur, L. Painchaud and T. Rasimus, p. 131, n. 52. Leuven, Paris & Bristol: Peeters.

• Goehring, James E. 2006. “An Early Roman Bowl from the Monastery of Pachomius at Pbow and the Milieu of the Nag Hammadi Codices.” In Coptica—Gnostica—Manichaica. Mélanges offerts à Wolf-Peter Funk, edited by L. Painchaud and P.-H. Poirier, p. 362-363. Quebec City, Leuven & Paris: Les Presses de l’Université Laval & Peeters.

Griggs, C. Wilfred. 1990. Early Egyptian Christianity: From its Origins to 451 CE. Leiden: Brill.

Pierrat, Geneviève. 1995. Peintres potiers d’Assouan du IVe au VIe siècle ap. J.-C.. La Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 5-6: 31-42.

Pierrat, Geneviève. 1996. Évolution de la céramique de Tôd du IIe siècle au VIIe siècle apr. J.-C.. Cahiers de la céramique égyptienne 4: 189-206.

• Robinson, James M. 1977a. “Introduction.” In The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by J. M. Robinson, p. 21. New York: Harper & Row.

• Robinson, James M. 1977b. The Nag Hammadi Codices: A General Introduction to the Nature and Significance of the Coptic Gnostic Codices from Nag Hammadi. p. 2 and pl. 7. Claremont, CA: Institute for Antiquity and Christianity.

• Robinson, James M. 1979. “The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices.” Biblical Archeologist 42: 213-224.

• Robinson, James M. 1981. “From the Cliffs to Cairo: The Story of the Discoverers and Middlemen of the Nag Hammadi Codices.” In Colloque international sur les textes de Nag Hammadi (Québec, 22-25 août 1978), edited by B. Barc, p. 37-38. Québec: Université Laval.

• Robinson, James M. 1984. “The Discovery and Marketing of Coptic Manuscripts: The Nag Hammadi Manuscripts and the Bodmer Papyri.” In Sundries in Honour of Torgny Säve-Söderbergh, p. 104. Uppsala: University of Uppsala Press.

• Robinson, James M. 1990. “Introduction.” In The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 3rd edition, edited by J. M. Robinson, p. 23. New York: HarperCollins.

• Robinson, James M. 1997. “Nag Hammadi: The First Fifty Years.” In The Nag Hammadi Library after Fifty Years: Proceedings of the 1995 Society of Biblical Literature Commemoration, edited by J. D. Turner and A. McGuire, p. 3-33. Leiden: Brill.

• Rodziewicz, Mieczysław. 1976. Alexandrie 1. La céramique romaine tardive d’Alexandrie. Warsaw: Éditions scientifiques de Pologne.

• El-Sayed, Rafed and Konstantin C. Lakomy. 2017. “Funde aus Aḫmīm-Panopolis in den Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin I. Spätantike Keramikgefäße im Museum für Byzantinische Kunst.” Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 56: 60-62.

• El-Sayed, Rafed, Konstantin C. Lakomy, Elisabeth Ehler, Cäcilia Fluck, Anne Herzberg-Beiersdorf and Olivia Zorn. 2021. Achmîm - Ägyptens vergessene Stadt. Berlin: ‎Michael Imhof Verlag, 270.

Victor Ghica, 2020
Suggested citation
Victor Ghica, 2020, "Artefact ID 23", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,