"Pot marks and other non-textual
marking systems from prehistory
to present times"
Rock shrine
The international conference "Pot marks and other non-textual marking systems from prehistory to present
times" was held in Berlin on December 7-9, 2012. The main focus of the event, organized by the
Department of Egyptology and Northeast African Archaeology of Humboldt University Berlin within the
framework of a research linkage between Humboldt University and Warsaw University, funded by the
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, was on pot marks in Ancient Egypt, but other marking systems from
Egypt and elsewhere were discussed as well.

From the Book of Abstracts:

Marks and literacy in the Theban necropolis administration
Ben Haring (Leiden University)
Recent investigation of the New Kingdom marks ostraca from the Theban necropolis has resulted in a
better understanding of the nature of the information recorded on them. The twentieth Dynasty ostraca
in particular have yielded many more useful data (e.g. on supplies, the persons responsible for these, and
the turnus of guard duties). In several respects, ostraca with marks may have stood closer to the daily
reality of the necropolis workmen than the hieratic  records.

Post-firing pot marks from Deir el-Medina and their relation to workmen’s marks
Daniel Soliman (Leiden University)
Among the New Kingdom pottery recovered from Deir el-Medina and the Theban necropolis are numerous
vessels which show post-firing pot marks. They are generally interpreted as property
markers. Such an assumption is supported by the fact that many pot marks seem to belong to the same
system of marks employed by the necropolis workmen in graffiti and on administrative ostraca. This
presentation explores the ways in which pot marks may aid the study of  workmen’s marks. For example,
marked vessels found in situ in a tomb from Deir el-Medina may provide a date for, and perhaps even the
identity connected to a certain workmen’s mark. Also discussed are a number of problems, such as the
interpretation of pot marks which are not otherwise attested as workmen’s marks.

Signification in ancient Egyptian marking systems
Kyra van der Moezel (Leiden University)
The marks of non-textual marking systems are signs that relate and refer to referents. How does this
process work? How does a mark relate to its referent and how does it transfer its meaning? How do
marks signify their referents, and do they signify their referents according to a ruleconstrained system of
signification? Many theorists have written about this process of signification in general. During the lecture,
I will limit myself to signification in ancient Egypt with concrete examples. The various methods of
signification encountered in ancient Egyptian marking systems will be discussed. Comparison with
signification between reduced and full forms in writing has appeared to be a fruitful one and will therefore
also be taken into account. I will depart from the system of workmen’s marks from Deir el-Medina,
focusing on the question: How does the process of signification between the workmen’s marks and the
workmen’s names work and is there a canonized system constrained by rules to which the marks must
adhere in order to signify the names of the workmen? The ultimate goal is to create a frame of
signification for the workmen’s marks that helps to define their nature and precise meaning through a
study of the processes of signification in ancient Egyptian language and marking systems in general.

For the programme and book of abstracts see

For the project see also

To read more about “Funny signs” from Deir el-Medina by Dr. Sławomir Rzepka,

To view the Deir el-Medina signs, see http://www.ntms.uw.edu.pl/index.php?rt=funnycodes
The page was last modified on April 28th 2013