A Taste of the Ancient World:
Storage and Cooking at Karanis



Household Vessel with Cardamom Seeds 
KM 20335 a/b
Karanis, Egypt

Although this household container would normally have been used to store liquids, oddly enough it was found filled with cardamom - still retaining a sweet odor. Cardamom, currently the third most expensive spice in the United States, was much more common in the ancient world. It was often locally raised and considered a staple in most Roman kitchens.


 Group of Cooking Pots and Serving Vessels
KM 8157; 8163; 8164; 8220; 20405; 20414; 20426; 20427; 20428
Karanis, Egypt

These dishes were found together in a storage bin, suggesting that they constituted part of an ancient 'kitchen and dining set'. Kilns for firing ceramics were found at Karanis, suggesting that these pots were made locally and produced in great numbers. This red-earthen pottery was used by the ordinary inhabitants of Karanis, where the women of each household would prepare meals throughout the day - in between other daily jobs and chores. Found in the same bin as these vessels were other cooking pots, serving vessels, rope, a knife, grain, garlic, parched peas, and barley. This collection gives some sense of the range of items needed around the home. Two photographs show this assemblage at different stages of its exavation.



 Archive Photo 5-3475

 Archive Photo 5-3476

Compare this domestic assemblage with a group of household objects found on the windowsill of another house in Karanis, and with some cooking pots from Sepphoris, a Roman town in Israel.





KM 8126
1st c BC
Karanis, Egypt

 Detail of Stamps on Handles
KM 8126

Amphorae, large storage vessels, were used throughout the ancient world to transport wine, olive oil, and other more luxurious goods by ship. Each amphora held several gallons of liquid, and could weigh over a hundred pounds when filled. On the handle of this amphora excavated at Karanis are stamped two names - Baton and Eraios - who were probably slaves involved in amphora production. Compare this amphora with an amphora that was found in a shipwreck.




Wooden Handle for a Knife 
KM 7713
1st c. BC - 4th c AD
Karanis, Egypt

Bronze Knife Blade 
KM 23117
Karanis, Egypt

These knives likely served in the kitchen for food preparation. The bright green spot on the blade indicates the corrosive presence of 'bronze disease', which eats the metal away. Compare these knives with the iron pruning tool.

Go on to Serving and Eating.

Exhibit Index

 More Food for Thought

Exhibit Acknowledgements


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