Pottery appears for the first time in the Neolithic period, around the middle of the sixth millennium b.c.e. For two reasons, it serves as a major tool for the archaeological study of the material culture of ancient man: first because of its extensive use in everyday life and second because of its durability; for although the vessels break easily, the material survives as potsherds. Pottery is of great value for acquiring the knowledge of the technological progress of various periods, the trends in the development of early plastic art, and international cultural and commercial relations which form the basis of the comparative chronology of different cultures in the ancient Near East. On the basis of stratigraphic finds at archaeological excavations, pottery is seen to have undergone changes in different periods as well as in different phases of the same period – changes in form, decoration, techniques of working the clay, and firing. As a result, pottery serves as a major index of the relative chronological framework of a given culture. For protohistoric cultures and periods containing no written remains or coins, which are the primary sources of absolute chronology, the relative chronology constructed on pottery sequence serves as a substitute. Once the absolute date of a potsherd is established, the stratum in which it was found can be dated, and thus it also becomes an aid in fixing the absolute chronology (see *Archaeology).
The clay from which pottery is produced is an aluminum silicate mixed with various additions such as iron oxides, alkalies, quartz, and lime. Two kinds of clay have been differentiated: clean clay, of pure aluminum silicate, which is not found in Ereẓ Israel, and a rich clay, consisting of aluminum silicate mixed with iron ozides, carbon compounds, etc. The material was prepared for use by sifting and removing foreign matter, mixing it with water and levigating it. If the clay was too rich and not sufficiently plastic, it was tempered by the addition of substances such as sand and quartz grit. The wet sifted clay was then wedged by hand or treaded; after it was well mixed it was ready for shaping. The earliest pottery was handmade. In the Neolithic period, pottery was made by joining together coils of clay, smoothing the junction line by hand. The pottery was shaped on a base or stand of wood, stone, or matting. A technical innovation was shaping pottery from a ball of clay. In the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze periods primitive potter's wheels consisting of a turning board (tournette) were used. Examples of the next stage in the development of the potter's wheel have been found in excavations in Palestine. It consists of two horizontal stone disks placed one on top of the other, the lower one with a conical depression and the upper with a conical projection which could be turned by hand. Several types of pottery were thrown on the wheel in the Early Bronze Age but it was used extensively only in the Middle Bronze Age. After the pot was shaped it was removed from its stand and set aside to dry until its water content was not more than 15%. The pot was then of a leather hard consistency and handles, base, spout, projecting decorations, etc. were applied and various types of ornamentation were added: slips and burnishing, paint, incisions, relief and impressed markings. When the pot was completely fashioned it was dried a second time until it retained only about 3% of its water content. Afterwards it was fired in an open or closed kiln at a temperature of 450°–950° C. The best wares were produced at the highest temperatures. The earliest pottery was fired in open pits, in which combustible material was laid over the pottery, leaving blistering or patches on the sides of vessels. At a later stage the pottery was separated from the fuel by a perforated clay partition built above the fuel compartment. With the invention of the closed kiln it was possible to use an oxidizing fire, which produced pottery of a red color, or a reducing fire, without oxygen, which turned the pottery black.
The invention of pottery is believed to have taken place first in the northern Levant, together with the plaster-based White Ware ("vaisselles blanches"), and slowly it began appearing in Palestine as well. Crude attempts at making pottery (sun-dried or low-fired) were found at Pre-Pottery Neolithic c levels at Ain Ghazal and Basta (c. 5800–5500 b.c.e.). At Yiftahel (Stratum iii) the White Ware and the early pottery was visually indistinguishable, and some distinctions could only be made by petrographic analysis.
The pottery of the Late Neolithic period (5500 to 4000 b.c.e.) is handmade, coarse, and badly fired. The pottery types include jars, cooking pots, bowls and storage jars decorated with a red-burnished slip or painted triangular and zigzag lines, and with incised and painted geometric designs (such as chevron and herring-bone patterns). The main finds of this period come from the Jordan Valley, Sha'ar ha-Golan, Jericho, etc. The Wadi Rabbah pottery is a more accomplished type of pottery, known particularly in the coastal region.
In the Chalcolithic period (4000–3300 b.c.e.). several new forms are added to the pottery repertoire of the previous period. The pottery is handmade, sometimes made on a tournette (particularly bowls), and decorated with a rope ornament and occasionally painted with bands of red paint. Tiny lug handles are characteristic of the period, and the shapes include cornets, v-shaped bowls, goblets, jugs, and kraters. Mat impressions are found on the bases of the storage jars. A bird-shaped pot with a lug handle at each end has been named "churn" since it apparently served for making butter, though it may have been a water container. The largest assortment of Chalcolithic pottery was found in the Ghassulian and Beer-Sheba cultures. Additional pottery types are known from the Golan. There also appears to be an earlier phase of Chalcolithic ("Middle Chalcolithic") pottery from the Jordan Valley and from the central highland regions.
early bronze age
The Early Bronze Age 3300 b.c.e. to 1200 b.c.e. may be subdivided into three or four secondary phases:
(1) Early Bronze i – the typical pottery of the period is gray burnished ware, band-slip (grain-wash) ware, and burnished red-slip ware. Gray burnished ware has a more northerly distribution. Imports of Egyptian vessels are also known, with local imitations, particularly at southern sites (e.g., En Besor).
(2) Early Bronze ii – the most distinctive pottery type is the so-called "Abydos (Egyptian) ware," a group of pitchers and storage jars with burnished red-slips on the lower half and triangles and dots painted brown-black on the upper half. This pottery is named after the site where it was first found – the royal tombs of the First Dynasty at Abydos in Upper Egypt. It is of great value for correlating the chronology of Egypt and Palestine. Another important pottery group consists of storage jars with two loop handles and surfaces decorated with pattern combing.
(3) Early Bronze iii – the characteristic pottery of this phase is called Khirbat Karak ware (named after Bet Yeraḥ (Khirbat Karak) where it was first found). The pottery types include kraters, bowls, pitchers, and stands. The ware is made of a poor-quality clay and is covered throughout with a highly burnished slip. Occasionally it has a red slip all over but often the rim and interior are red and the exterior is black. The decoration consists of incised lines or groups of lines in relief.
Intermediate Bronze Age
The Intermediate Bronze Age (also known as the Early Bronze IV, 2300–2000 b.c.e.) constitutes a transitional stage between the Early Bronze Age and the Middle Bronze ii period. Its material remains are known from villages, campsites, and tombs. The pottery of the period is globular or cylindrical in shape, with wide flat bases, and lacks shoulders and handles. The handles which do occur – enveloped ledge handles and lug handles between the neck and the body – are apparently a continuation of the Early Bronze ceramic tradition. The body of this type of vessel is handmade while the neck, which flares outward, is formed on the wheel; the line where the two are joined together is decorated with combing or with single incised grooves. A group by itself is an assortment from the Megiddo tombs, which consists of "teapots" and goblets made on the wheel of black clay decorated with yellow bands and also jugs with red slips. There are no distinctive cooking pots; hole-mouth jars were apparently used for cooking. The typical lamp of the period is a small bowl with four pinched corners.
middle bronze age
With the renewed urbanism of the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 b.c.e.) the pottery assemblage flourished with common wares matched by luxury vessels, and greater regionalism in ware types now becomes apparent. All the pottery is now produced on the wheel, which allowed for great artistic development. The period is subdivided generally into the Middle Bronze iia and Middle Bronze iib.
Middle Bronze ii a
In the Middle Bronze iia period a glossy red slip decoration – produced by burnishing with a shell or pebble – appears on many vessels, such as small and closed carinated bowls with disk bases (perhaps imitations of metal prototypes); open bowls with flat or disk bases; jugs and juglets with double or triple handles, often set on the shoulder, and dipper juglets. The storage jars are elliptical with a flattened base and often have two loop handles in the center of the body. The cooking pot has straight sides with a thumb-indented projecting band surrounding the body and some are perforated above the band. An interesting group are the storage jars, jugs, and juglets decorated on the upper part of the body with black and red bands, triangles, or circles on a white slip. This ware was thought to be similar in ornamentation to that found in the Khabur region and at Byblos.
Middle Bronze iib
The red burnished slip ceases to be dominant in the Middle Bronze iib period and many vessels are undecorated. The technique of manufacture is highly developed and many vessels are produced with thin walls and complicated shapes, such as open carinated bowls with disk or trumpet bags, made of a well-fired, levigated clay. The storage jars have elongated elliptical bodies with two to four loop handles. A special group consists of pear-shaped (pyriform) juglets with a button base and red, brown, or black burnished slips. In the final phase of the period, the characteristic juglet is cylindrical with a flat base. The lamps are small pinched bowls with one wick hole. The cooking pots are shallow with rounded bases and rounded flaring rims. An unusual group of pyriform juglets are known as Tell al-Yahūdiyya ware – named after the site where they were first found in the Nile Delta (many types are now known from Tell ed-Daba'). These juglets have black, gray, or red burnished slips and a white puncture-filled decoration on the surface made with a pointed tool.
late bronze age
The Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 b.c.e.) extends from the conquest of Palestine by the first pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty to the appearance of the Israelites. Palestine in this period was under Egyptian rule, and its culture was influenced both by Egypt as well as by extensive trade connections with the Aegean and East Mediterranean civilizations. It is possible to subdivide the period into three phases (according to Egyptian chronology): Late Bronze i (c. 1550–1400 b.c.e.), the beginning of the 18th Dynasty; Late Bronze iia (c. 1400–1300 b.c.e.), mainly the Tell el-Amarna period; Late Bronze iib (c. 1300–1200 b.c.e.), 19th Dynasty.
Late Bronze i
The pottery types and technique of manufacture of the Middle Bronze iib period persist partly in the Late Bronze i period. The pottery repertoire includes carinated bowls with ring bases or high ring bases; kraters with two loop handles and a ring base, often with a rope decoration as in the previous period; storage jars with elongated bodies, rounded bases, and flaring rims. The ceramic tradition of the Middle Bronze iib period is also seen in the jugs, juglets, cooking pots, and lamps. Two new groups of ware appear in this period: pilgrim flasks and the so-called "biconical" vessels. The latter have one loop handle. The upper part is decorated with metopes painted red, black, or brown. A new class of vessels first appearing in the transition period between the Middle and Late Bronze Age and continuing into the Late Bronze i is the Bichrome Ware. Made of finely levigated and well-fired clay it is slipped and burnished. The group includes jugs, kraters, and bowls decorated with metopes formed by bands painted red and black. The metopes contain animal decoration – birds, fishes, oxen – and geometric patterns. The character of the ware, which contains a number of unique forms, the decoration, and the uniform method of production indicate that this pottery may have been created by a group of artists in a single center, possibly Tell al-ʿAjūl, south of Gaza.
Late Bronze ii
In the Late Bronze ii period the previous pottery tradition continues on the whole but shows a certain degeneration in form and quality. The workmanship of the carinated bowls is cruder. The bowls are mainly simple flat vessels with flat or disk bases. The storage jar now shows a sharp shoulder and thickened button base (this type of storage jar was exported from Ereẓ Israel and has been found, together with imitations, in countries in the Aegean Sea and Egypt). The typical jug has a prominent neck with the handle from the rim to the shoulder, and the most common juglet is a dipper juglet generally with trefoil mouth. A new style of painted pottery develops in this period. The ornamented ware – biconical vessels, jugs, kraters – are painted in a single color, red, black, or brown, and a typical decoration has two gazelles facing each other with a palm tree between them. This style degenerates in the second half of the period, Late Bronze iib, and becomes more schematic and cruder. The pilgrim flasks are flattened and generally decorated with painted concentric circles. In the Late Bronze iia the neck is attached to the handles of the flask like a flower among leaves while in the second half of the period the flasks are lentoid shaped and the attachment of the neck to the handles is effaced. The lamps have an elongated sharply pinched rim; the cooking pots are shallow with a rounded base and have an ax rim and no handles
There is an abundance of imported pottery in this period, mostly of Mycenean and Cypriot origin. All the Cypriot pottery occurs in Palestine parallel with its appearance in Cyprus. The most distinctive feature of this pottery is the technique of manufacture – it is all handmade and the handles are inserted inside the body of the vessels. This pottery falls into two main groups – White Slip Ware, which includes the "milk bowls," half-globular bowls with wishbone handles and a white-slip and ladder decoration painted brown or black. The second type is called Base Ring Ware and is characterized by a high ring base. This ware is made of well-fired clay and has a metallic ring when struck; it is covered with a reddish brown slip. Its most common types are bowls with wishbone handles and jugs with high tilted necks called bilbil. Groups of Monochrome Ware are also found in Palestine as well as the knife-pared type – usually dipper juglets – and other groups. The bulk of the Mycenean pottery appears in Late Bronze ii. It is wheel-made of a light-colored, finely levigated clay, and well fired. The vessels are covered with a light slip and painted with bands of geometric patterns and floral and animal motifs. Aside from a number of shards and a cup decorated with an ivy-leaf design which are attributed to the Late Bronze i (Mycenaean ii), the entire assortment belongs to the Mycenaean iiia–b period. The vessels include cups, pear-shaped amphoriskoi, stirrup-jars, pilgrim flasks, juglets, bowls, pyxides, etc. A small amount of pottery imported from Syria and Egypt is also found in this period.
The Iron Age is divided into two main parts: the Early Iron Age (or Iron Age i, 1200–1000 b.c.e.) and the Late Iron Age (Iron Age ii a–c, 1000–586 b.c.e.). The history of this period encompasses the appearance of the Philistines, Israelites, and other peoples in the region, and subsequently, the period of the United Monarchy, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/586 b.c.e. The collective term for pottery in the Bible is kelei ḥeres (כְּלֵי חֶרֶשׂ, Lev. 6:21; Num. 5:17; Jer. 32:14), while pottery sherds are called ḥeres (חֶרֶשׂ, Job. 2:8). Pottery vessels were used for cooking (Lev. 6:21), as containers for liquids (Num. 5:17), and containers for scrolls (Jer. 32:14). There are references in the Bible to some of the methods that the potter used in his work – "the potter treads clay" (Isa. 41:25) and "I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do" (Jer. 18:3–4). Only two types of vessels in the Bible are designated as pottery. They are: "earthen pots" (nivlei ḥeres; Lam. 4:2) and "earthen flasks" (bakbuk yoẓer ḥeres; Jer. 19:1). Other vessels that presumably were made of clay are, e.g., aggan, agganot, "bowl, cup" (Song 7:3 (2); Isa. 22:24); asukh, "jar" (ii Kings 4:2); gavʿia, "pitcher" (Jer. 35:5); kad, "jar" for water (Gen. 24:14) or flour (i Kings 17:14); kos, "cup" (Jer. 35:5); sir, "pot" (Ex. 16:3); sefel, "bowl" (Judg. 6:38); pakh, "vial" (of oil; Jer. 25:28; i Sam. 10:1); zappahat, "cruse" (i Kings 17:14); kubba'at, "cup" (Isa. 51:17, 22); ke'arah, "bowl" (Num. 7:85).
In the areas not settled by the Israelites, the Late Bronze pottery tradition seems to continue in the first phase of the period. At the same time new types of pottery appear in the highlands and inland regions of the country. This pottery is associated in the central highlands with the appearance of the Israelites, but in Galilee there are pottery types that indicate Phoenician influence as well. The pottery types which continue the Late Bronze tradition include kraters with two loop handles and painted metope decoration, cooking pots which continue the ax-shaped rim and are without handles, lentoid flasks which are decorated with painted concentric circles, and lamps. The pottery attributed to the area of the appearance of the Israelites, mostly coarse in shape and carelessly made, includes simple, crude bowls, storage jars mostly with a collar rim, many-handled kraters (up to eight) with a rope or incised decoration. The cooking pot shows numerous variations of the ax-shaped rim. During this period there also appear carinated bowls, especially in the south of the country, often with a pair of degenerated horizontal handles. Toward the end of the period new pottery features develop-two loop handles are added to the cooking pot which also has a ridge beneath the rim on the outside; tiny juglets appear with a black or red burnished slip; red-slipped vessels are also common with irregular hand burnishing which is the hallmark of the period. A very distinctive pottery assortment occurs in the 12th–11th centuries b.c.e., called Philistine Ware; it is found mainly in the area inhabited by the Philistines. The shapes and decorative motifs of the pottery are derived from the Aegean pottery tradition, mainly Mycenean iiic 1. The typical Philistine shapes include kraters with two horizontal loop handles; stirrup jars; jugs with long narrow necks, loop handles, and strainer spouts, which are known as "beer jugs"; long-necked jugs influenced by Egyptian pottery; elongated pyxides; and horn-shaped vessels. Some vessels are covered with a whitewash on which metopes are painted in red and black and ornamented with geometric designs, or even with animals and birds. With the consolidation of the Philistines into the material culture of Palestine in the late 11th century b.c.e., the typical animal motifs disappear and their pottery is no longer differentiated from other pottery types of the period.
Although many differences are found in the pottery of the north and south of the country in various periods, a sharper differentiation occurs with the division of the Monarchy and recent research has been able to highlight various aspects of regionalism. The excavation of Lachish was instrumental in establishing the character and date of pottery assemblages from Level iii (destroyed in 701 b.c.e.) and Level ii (destroyed in 587/586 b.c.e.). In Judah red-slip and wheel-burnished vessels are more common; the bowls are carinated with enveloped rims toward the end of the period; the kraters have from two to four handles, are covered with a red slip, and are wheel-burnished on the inside, and on the rim of the outside; the rims of the cooking pots are ridged on the outside, and toward the end of the period a special type of cooking pot with a high ridged rim appears; the typical storage jar (in Lachish iii) has four ridged loop handles, often stamped with la-melekh ("of the king") seal impressions, an elliptical body, and a rounded base; the hole-mouth jars have a round bottom and a wide enveloped or ridged rim; the jugs have bulging bodies and thick necks; at the end of the period the lamps have high bases. In Israel not only the red-slip burnished ware is dominant but red- and black-slip pottery is also very common. The typical storage jar has an elongated globular body, prominent shoulder, and pointed base; bowls and kraters are often decorated with bar handles under the rim. A distinctive northern group is known as Samaria Ware, appearing in two groups – thick-walled and thin-walled ware. This pottery is characterized by a very high standard of workmanship. The walls of the thin ware are of eggshell thinness; it is slipped and burnished throughout in red or in alternating concentric circles of red and yellow. The thick ware, made of a creamy clay, has thick walls and either ring, high ring, or stepped bases, The bowls are covered with a red, yellow, or black burnished slip. The pottery common to both Israel and Judah includes water decanters, spouted jugs, carinated bowls, dipper juglets, etc. Several types of imported pottery also occur in this period – the most prominent is known as Cypro-Phoenician Ware which first appears in Palestine toward the end of the Iron I period and continues until the eighth century b.c.e. This pottery includes bowls with two degenerated horizontal handles and juglets with a flat base and one or two handles. The vessels are decorated with black stripes and concentric circles on a lustrous red slip ("Black on Red"). Some imports from Assyria are also found.
This period (586–330 b.c.e.) is identical with the post-Exilic period, and covers the half century of Babylonian rule after the destruction of the Temple, as well as the subsequent two centuries of Persian rule. Some scholars have suggested that the material culture of the Iron Age ii did not cease with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c.e., but that it continued during the time of Babylonian rule, at least until 530/520 b.c.e., with others suggesting lowering the terminal date well into the fifth century b.c.e.
The pottery of the Persian phase includes coarse bowls with a high ring base and ribbed sides; storage jars with an elongated stump base and two loop handles rising above the shoulders; carrot-shaped juglets; storage jars with two deformed loop handles, elongated pointed base, straight shoulders, and slightly projecting rim. Towards the end of this period kraters and holemouth jars appear with a decoration of bands of reed incisions on their shoulders. The lamps have flat bases with one elongated wick hole and a wide rim around the bowl. A number of pottery types imported from Greece are found in Palestine.
Palestine in the Hellenistic period (330–63 b.c.e.) was for most of the time part of an empire and under its cultural influence. The local pottery made for ordinary domestic use was on the whole coarse and clumsy, with regional production centers, but two groups of imported ware are found: fine luxury ware and amphorae for storing imported goods, especially wine. The most characteristic of the local ware are bowls with inverted or outward flaring rims and ring or flat bases; spindle-shaped juglets; cooking pots with two handles and a low erect neck which are reminiscent of the Iron Age pots. There is also a group of open pinched lamps with one wick hole. Both classes of imported ware are widely distributed in this period, the most widespread being the Rhodian wine amphora with stamped handles. The luxury ware included Megarian bowls which were cast in molds; various types of black-glazed bowls ("fish plates") with impressed or roulette decoration. At the end of the period appears the terra sigillata ware – fine red-glazed pottery with impressed and roulette decoration.
The pottery of the Roman period (63 b.c.e.–325 c.e.), is divided into the Early Roman period (63 b.c.e.–135 c.e.), with some types disappearing with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 c.e., and the Middle Roman and/or Late Roman (135–325 c.e.). The typical local pottery of the Herodian period (first century c.e.) includes pilgrim flasks with twisted handles; bottles with high necks and thick bodies; juglets with flaring rims; closed lamps cast in molds with pared horned nozzles. The cooking pots follow the tradition of the previous period. Changes occur in the storage jars which divide into elongated bag-shaped jars and bell-shaped jars. Of the imported ware the most common type is the terra sigillata ware, mainly platters and flat bowls with ring bases; they are covered with a red glaze and have a roulette and impressed decoration. Both eastern and western sigillata appear in Palestine. The western, Arretine style (30 b.c.e.#x2013;30 c.e.) is outstanding in workmanship and finish. Nabatean Ware also appears in this period – eggshellthin bowls decorated with red floral patterns on an orange background. A local painted variety of bowl – resembling slightly Nabatean examples – appears in Jerusalem. In the Late Roman period these shapes continue to develop – the discus lamps are round and closed, cast in a mould, with a handle or a knob. Numerous Mediterranean types of amphorae appear in the region.
the byzantine period
Pottery types of the previous period continue into the Byzantine period (325–640 c.e.). From the beginning of the period, red gloss bowls ("Late Roman Wares") make their appearance. Hayes (1972) produced a dated series of these lrw types (but changes in this dating system is now being assumed by scholars). Local examples, such as bowls with rouletted decorations on their rims, also make their appearance. Various kinds of storage jars are typical of the period, particularly the so-called "Gaza" jar which was made at kilns sites along the lower coast region, from Ashkelon towards north Sinai. Numerous imported jars are also known for this period. Closed cooking pots with two ear-like handles give way to shallow cooking pots with two horizontal handles and a lid. There are also clay pans with only one horizontal handle. The lamps are closed, cast in molds, and elongated in form. Most of them are decorated. The pottery of the Byzantine period did not change with the invasion of the Hejaz Arabs in the early seventh century c.e., but continued with very small changes until the Abbasid period, i.e., in the mid-eighth century. It is at this point that major changes in the pottery assemblages of the Islamic period first become apparent.
R. Amiran, The Ancient Pottery of Palestine (1970). add. bibliography: general (see also bibliography under *Archaeology); D. Homes-Fredericq and H.J. Franken, Pottery and Potters – Past and Present (1986); M. Peleg, A Bibliography of Roman, Byzantine and Early Arab Pottery from Israel and Neighbouring Countries (1990); L.G. Herr, Published Pottery of Palestine. (1996); S. Gitin (ed.), The Ancient Pottery of Israel and its Neighbors: from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic Period. (2006). technology and research methods: D.E. Arnold, Ceramic Theory and Cultural Process (1985); C. Orton, P. Tyers, and A. Vince, Pottery in Archaeology (1993); I. Freestone and D. Gaimster (eds.), Pottery in the Making (1997); chalcolithic to persian: Y. Garfinkel, Neolithic and Chalcolithic Pottery of the Southern Levant (1999); J.A. Callaway, Pottery from the Tombs at 'Ai (Et-Tell) (1964); M.F. Kaplan, G. Harbottle, and E.V. Sayre, "Multi-disciplinary Analysis of Tell el-Yahudiyeh Ware," in: Archaeometry, 24 (1982), 127–42; R. Bonfil, "mb ii Pithoi in Palestrine," in: Eretz-Israel, 23 (1992), 26–37 (Heb.); M. Artzy and E. Marcus, "Stratified Cypriot Pottery in mbiia Context at Tel Nami," in: G.C. Ionnides (ed.), Studies in Honour of Vassos Karageorghis (1992), 103–10; D. Ilan, "Middle Bronze Age Painted Pottery From Tel Dan," in: Levant, 28 (1996), 157–72; P. Magrill and A. Middleton, "A Canaanite Potter's Workshop in Palestine," in: I. Freestone and D. Gaimster (eds.), Pottery in the Making (1997), 68–73; J.S. Holladay, "Of Sherds and Strata: Contributions Toward an Understanding of the Archaeology of the Divided Monarchy," in: F.M. Cross (ed.), Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God (1976), 253–93; S. Bunomovitz and A. Yasur-Landau, "Philistine and Israelite Pottery: A Comparative Approach to the Question of Pots and People," in: Tel Aviv, 23 (1996); A. Mazar and N. Panitz-Cohen, Timnah (Tel Batash) ii: The Finds from the First Millennium bce (2001); D. Ussishkin (ed.), The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973–1994), 5 vols. (2004). hellenistic to byzantine: A. Berlin and K.W. Slane, Tel Anafa ii, i: The Hellenistic and Roman Pottery (1997); T. Levine, "Pottery and Small Finds From the Subterranean Complexes 21 and 70," in: A. Kloner, Maresha Excavations Final Report i (2003); D. Regev, "Typology of the Persian and Hellenistic Pottery Forms at Maresha – Subterranean Complexes 70, 21, 58," in: A. Kloner, Maresha Excavations Final Report i (2003); G. Finkielsztejn, Chronologie détaillée et révisée des eponyms amphoriques rhodiens de 270 à 108 av. J.C. environ. Premier bilan (2001); P.W. Lapp, Palestinian Ceramic Chronology 200 b.c.–a.d. 70 (1961): D.P.S. Peacock and D.F. Williams, Amphorae and the Roman Economy (1991); J. Eiring and J. Lund (eds.), Transport Amphorae and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean (2004); J.W. Hayes, Handbook of Mediterranean Roman Pottery (1997); D. Adan-Bayewitz, Common Pottery in Roman Galilee (1993); D. Barag and M. Hershkovitz, "Lamps," in: Masada iv: The Yigael Yadin Excavations 1963–1965: Final Reports (1994); S. Loffreda, Cafarnao: ii. La Ceramica (1974); S. Loffreda, La Ceramica: di Macheronte e del' Herodion (90 a.c.–135 d.c.). (1996); R. Bar-Nathan, Hasmonean and Herodian Palaces at Jericho: Vol. iii: The Pottery. (2002); J. Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002); M. Hershkovitz, "Jerusalem Painted Pottery from the Late Second Temple Period," in: R. Rosenthal-Higenbottom (ed.), The Nabateans in the Negev. (2003): 45–50; M. Killick, "Nabatean Pottery," in: Artists Newsletter (Nov. 1986), 16–17; J.W. Hayes, Late Roman Pottery (1972); F. Vitto, "Pottery and Pottery Manufacture in Roman Palestine," in: Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology, 23 (1986), 47–64; U. Zevulun and Y. Olenik, Function and Design in the Talmudic Period (1979); J. Magness, Jerusalem Ceramic Chronology circa 200–800 ce (1993); later periods: G.M. Crowfoot, "Pots, Ancient and Modern," in: pefqst (1932), 179–87; A.D. Grey, "The Pottery of the Later Periods from Tel Jezreel," in: Levant, 26 (1994), 51–62; D. Whitcomb, "Khirbet al-Mafjar Reconsidered: The Ceramic Evidence," in: basor, 271 (1988), 51–67; D. Pringle, "The Medieval Pottery of Palestine and Transjordan (ad 636–1500): An Introduction, Gazetteer and Bibliography," in: Medieval Ceramics, 5 (1981), 45–60. lamps: R. Rosenthal and R. Sivan, Ancient Lamps in the Schlossinger Collection. (1978); Y. Israeli and U. Avida, Oil Lamps from Eretz Israel (1988); J. Goodnick Westenholz, Let There Be Light: Oil Lamps from the Holy Land, Bible Lands Museum (2004).
[Isaak Dov Ber Markon /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
Pottery is clay that is modeled, dried, and fired, usually with a glaze or finish, into a vessel or decorative object. Clay is a natural product dug from the earth, which has decomposed from rock within the earth's crust for millions of years. Decomposition occurs when water erodes the rock, breaks it down, and deposits them. It is important to note that a clay body is not the same thing as clay. Clay bodies are clay mixed with additives that give the clay different properties when worked and fired; thus pottery is not made from raw clay but a mixture of clay and other materials.
The potter can form his product in one of many ways. Clay may be modeled by hand or with the assistance of a potter's wheel, may be jiggered using a tool that copies the form of a master model onto a production piece, may be poured into a mold and dried, or cut or stamped into squares or slabs. The methods for forming pottery is as varied as the artisans who create them.
Pottery must be fired to a temperature high enough to mature the clay, meaning that the high temperature hardens the piece to enable it to hold water. An integral part of this firing is the addition of liquid glaze (it may be painted on or dipped in the glaze) to the surface of the unfired pot, which changes chemical composition and fuses to the surface of the fired pot. Then, the pottery is called vitreous, meaning it can hold water.
Potters have been forming vessels from clay bodies for millions of years. When nomadic man settled down and discovered fire, the firing of clay pots was not far behind. Pinch pots, made from balls of clay into which fingers or thumbs are inserted to make the opening, may have been the first pottery. Coil pots, formed from long coils of clay that are blended together, were not far behind. These first pots were fired at low temperatures and were thus fragile and porous. Ancient potters partially solved this by burnishing the surfaces with a rock or hard wood before firing. These low-temperature fired pots were blackened by these fires. Decoration was generally the result of incisions or insertions of tools into soft clay. Early potters created objects that could be used for practical purposes, as well as objects that represented their fertility gods.
The civilizations of ancient Egypt and the Middle East utilized clay for building and domestic use as early a 5000 b.c. By 4000 b.c., the ancient Egyptians were involved in pottery on a much larger scale. They utilized finer clays and fired the pieces at much higher temperatures in early kilns that removed the pots from the direct fire so they were not blackened from the fire. Bricks from clay were used as building material as well. The ancient Chinese produced black pottery by 3500 b.c. with round bases and plaited decoration. Closer to 1000 b.c. the Chinese used the potter's wheel and developed more sophisticated glazes. Their pottery was often included in funeral ceremonies. In the first millennium b.c., the Greeks began throwing pots on wheels and creating exquisite forms. Pre-Colombians, ancient Iberians, the ancient Romans (who molded pottery with raised decoration), and the ancient Japanese all created beautiful pottery for domestic use as well as for religious purposes.
Until the mid-eighteenth century, European potters generally sold small quantities of completed wares at a market or through merchants. If they wanted to sell more, they took more wares to market. However, British production potters experimented with new body types, perfected glazes, and took orders for products made in factories rather than taking finished goods to the consumer. By the later eighteenth century, many fellow potters followed suit, experimenting with all kinds of new bodies and glazes. Molds were used to make mass quantities of consistent product so that the consumer could be assured of the look of this piece.
Its primary mineral is kaolinite; clay may be generally described as 40% aluminum oxide, 46% silicon oxide, and 14% water. There are two types of clays, primary and secondary. Primary clay is found in the same place as the rock from which it is derived—it has not been transported by water or glacier and thus has not mixed with other forms of sediment. Primary clay is heavy, dense, and pure. Secondary or sedimentary clay is formed of lighter sediment that is carried farther in water and deposited. This secondary clay, a mixture of sediment, is finer and lighter than primary clay. Varying additives give the clay different characteristics. Clay comes to a production potter in one of two forms—as a powder to which water must be added, or with water already added. Large factories purchase the clays in huge quantities as dry materials, making up the clay batch as needed each day.
This lovely, stout stoneware teapot is the work of Josiah Wedgwood and Co., of Staffordshire, England, perhaps the best known of British pottery companies of the nineteenth century. Teapots and associated cups became very popular about the mid-1700s because of the development importance of the "tea" and its ceremony. Thus, a mainstay of porters in the eighteenth century was the teapot and cup sets.
Josiah Wedgwood was not content to simply supply pottery rather haphazardly. He knew there was a large market for high-quality, attractive pottery and he certainly would do his best to regularize the product and develop some new products people just had to have. He was one of the first potters to sell his wares in advance through orders, thus creating a sample or "stock" product. Since his products had to be uniform, he developed glazes that would give consistent results and divided the work process into many different steps so that one worker would not have a tremendous impact on the finished product. Particularly important to Wedgwood was the work of the modeller and the artist, who made the prototype shapes and designs for Wedgwood. Wedgwood discovered that these artists could provide designs for new pottery that looked antique, and these neo-classicol pieces were the mainstay of his business for many years.
Nancy EV Bryk
Glazes are made up of materials that fuse during the firing process making the pot vitreous or impervious to liquids. (Ceramics engineers define vitreous as a pot that has a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%.) Glazes must have three elements: silica, the vitrifying element (converts the raw pottery into a glasslike form)—is found in ground and calcined flint and quartz; flux, which fuses the glaze to the clay; and refractory material, which hardens and stabilizes the glaze. Color is derived by adding a metallic oxide, including antimony (yellows), copper (green, turquoise, or red), cobalt (black), chrome (greens), iron, nickel, vanadium, etc. Glazes are generally purchased in dry form by production potters. The glazes are weighed and put into a ball mill with water. The glaze is mixed within the ball mill and grinds the glaze to reduce the size of the natural particles within the glaze.
Pottery factories include art directors whose job it is to conceive marketable goods for the pottery company. Generally the art director, working with marketers, develops or creates an idea of a new creation. (Interestingly, many pottery companies are reproducing old forms popular decades ago such as brightly-colored Fiesta Ware so that new design is not necessary or desirable in all cases.) The art director then works with a clay modeler, who produces an original form of the creation to the art director's specifications. If the form is deemed a viable candidate for production, the mold maker makes a plaster master for the jiggering machine (which essentially traces a master shape onto a production piece) or a hollow into which clay is poured in order to form a production piece.
Mixing the clay
- 1 Clay arrives by truck or rail in powder form. The powder is moistened with water and mixed in a huge tank with a paddle called a blunger. Multiple spindles mix and re-mix the clay, in order to evenly distribute water. A typical batch mixed at a large production potter is 100,000 lb (45,400 kg) and they often mix up two batches in a single day. At this point, the slurry is about 30% water.
- 2 Next, the slurry is filter pressed. A device presses the slurry between bags or filters (like a cider press) to force out excess water. The resulting clay is thick and rather dry and is called cake now and is about 20% water.
- 3 The cake is then put into a plug mill in which the clay is chopped into fine pieces. This chopping de-airs the clay as pumps suck out air pockets that are exposed by this process. The cake is then formed into cylinders that are now ready to be molded or formed.
- 4 The fastest way to produce a regular, hollow pot is by using a jiggering machine. Thus, hollowware such as vases is largely made on jiggering machines. The clay cylinders made in the plug mill are sent to the jiggering machine. In order to make a vase, a wet clay cylinder is dropped onto the jiggering machine by a suction arm which positions the clay inside a plaster mold. A metal arm then comes down into the wet clay cylinder forcing it against the interior wall of the plaster mold thus forming the new vessel. The plaster mold, with wet clay inside, is then lifted off the machine and set in dryer. As the clay heats up and dries slightly the new, wet clay pulls away from the plaster mold and can thus be easily removed. Thus, the factory must have thousands of plaster molds in order to make these vases or other hollowware as a plaster mold is used to make each new vessel. The factory may be able to make as many as 9 pieces of pottery in a single minute.
- 5 A machine takes the rough edges off the molded piece. The cleaned pieces are placed on a continuously-moving belt which leads to tunnel dryers, which heat the pieces and reduce the water content to under 1% moisture before glazing and firing.
- 6 Pottery with delicate or intricate silhouette is often formed by slip casting. A pourable slip or slurry is poured into a two-part plaster mold, the excess is poured out, and the slip is permitted to stiffen and dry. The plaster mold sucks up some of the excess water and helps hasten the drying process. The plaster mold is opened when the greenware (undecorated clay piece still a bit wet) is stiff enough, the piece is cleaned of rough edges and seams from the mold, and the slip-cast greenware is ready for drying in the heated dryers.
- 7 After the pieces have been dried, they are ready for glazing. The pieces may be entirely covered in one color of glaze by being run under a waterfall of glaze that completely coats each piece, or the pieces may be sprayed with glaze. Deep hollowware such as vases have to be flushed with glaze by hand to ensure that they are completely coated on the inside. Glazes are generally applied to a thickness of 0.006-0.007 in (0.015-0.017 cm). Other pieces may be more decoratively glazed. Some pieces are printed with screen-printing, others have a decorative decal applied by hand, others may have lines or concentric rings applied by machines, and still others may be painted by hand.
- 8 Kilns may be heated by gas, coal, or electricity. One large production potter uses tunnel kilns fired with natural gas. Large cars or wagons (about 5 ft or 1.5 m square and nearly 5 ft or 1.5 m tall) are loaded with unfired pottery and sent to the kilns, firing approximately 20,000 dozen pieces of pottery in a single week. Newer furnaces run at higher temperatures than older kilns and require a shorter firing time—running at about 2,300° F (1,260° C) the pots remain in the kilns about 5 hours—thus allowing the factories to move pieces more quickly through production.
The kiln changes the glaze into a glass-like coating, which helps make the pot virtually impervious to liquid. Single-color production pottery requires only one firing with the new kilns and glazes. (Many glazes require that the greenware be fired once and made into a bisque or dull white, hard body, then glazed and fired again; however, this is not necessary with some new production glazes.)
- 9 The unglazed foot (or bottom) of the pottery is polished on a machine with a cleaning pad. The piece is then placed in a bin and is sent to packaging, ready to be shipped out for sale.
All raw materials are checked against the company's established standards. Clays must contain the ingredients required by the product and ordered by the company. Glazes must be as pure as possible and are checked for correct shade, viscosity, gravity, etc. Kiln temperature must be carefully monitored with heat cones and thermocoupies, etc. And each human involved in production uses their eyes to monitor against inferior products.
There are no harmful by-products resulting from the production of pottery. Clay scraps and imperfect pieces produced off the jiggering machine or from slip casting may be re-mixed and re-used. Glazes must be lead-free as required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and glazes are tested inhouse to assure the FDA that they contain neither cadmium nor lead. All glazes may be touched by the human hand are not harmful in raw state.
Where to Learn More
Chavarria, Joaquim. The Big Book of Ceramics. New York: Watson-Gupthill, 1994.
Forty, Adrian. Objects of Desire. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.
Hiller, Bevis. Pottery and Porcelain 1700-1914. New York: Meredith Press, 1968.
—Nancy EV Bryk
pottery, the baked-clay wares of the entire ceramics field. For a description of the nature of the material, see clay.
Types of Pottery
It usually falls into three main classes—porous-bodied pottery, stoneware, and porcelain. Raw clay is transformed into a porous pottery when it is heated to a temperature of about 500°C. This pottery, unlike sun-dried clay, retains a permanent shape and does not disintegrate in water. Stoneware is produced by raising the temperature, and porcelain is baked at still greater heat. In this process part of the clay becomes vitrified, or glassy, and the strength of the pottery is increased.
Methods of Production
Pottery is formed while clay is in its plastic form. Either a long piece of clay is coiled and then smoothed, or the clay is centered upon a potter's wheel (used in Egypt before 4000 BC) that spins the clay while it is being shaped by the hand, or thrown. Decoration may be incised, and the piece is allowed to dry to a state of leather hardness before firing it in a kiln. The type of finish, depending on the kind or number of glazes, dictates the total number of firings. When slip and graffito are used, they are applied before the first firing. There are two types of fires—reducing and oxidizing. The former removes oxygen while the latter, a smokeless fire, adds it. Reduction and oxidation change the color of the fired clay and gave early potters their palette of red, buff, and black.
Pottery is one of the most enduring materials known to humankind. In most places it is the oldest and most widespread art; primitive peoples the world over have fashioned pots and bowls of baked clay for their daily use. Prehistoric (sometimes Neolithic) remains of pottery, e.g., in Scandinavia, England, France, Italy, Greece, and North and South America, have proved of great importance in archaeology and have often supplied a means of dating and establishing an early chronology. Some of the oldest pottery has been found in Japan and China, dated to at least 16,000 and 20,000 years old respectively. Pottery has also been of value as historical and literary records; ancient Assyrian and Babylonian writings have been inscribed upon clay tablets. Simple geometric patterns in monochrome, polychrome, or incised work are common to pottery of prehistoric and primitive cultures.
Pottery of the Ancient Mediterranean
By 1500 BC the use of glazes, such as the famous greens and blues, was known in Egypt. Especially noteworthy is the early Aegean pottery of the Minoan and Mycenaean periods with its curvilinear, painted decoration. In Assyria and Neo-Babylonia, painted and glazed bricks were in common use. The Ishtar gate in Babylon, with its ceramic reliefs, is an early example of the majolica technique.
The Greek vases (800–300 BC), famous for symmetry of form and beauty of decoration, include red, black, and varicolored examples. The last were for tombs only, as the colors were painted, unfired, and easily marred. The red ware is decorated with black figures, or the ground is black and the figures shown red. Water, oil, and wine jars were numerous. Of the Greco-Roman wares, the Arretine or Samian, also a red ware, was molded after first being turned on the wheel to the size of the mold, which carried the decoration in intaglio.
Pottery of Asia
Painted pottery of the Neolithic period has been found in China. By the 2d cent. BC the Early Han period had developed a green glaze which may have come from the Middle East. In the Sui period (AD 581–618) and the T'ang period (618–906), porcelain and porcelaneous ware (the envy of the Western world) began to be made and exported to Korea and Japan and to the Islamic world. Technical knowledge, however, was not exchanged, and Islam made no true porcelain.
Islamic pottery making was centered at Baghdad in the 10th cent. Blue and green clear glazes were used, and lusterware was first employed as an overglaze. Lusterware was highly developed under the Fatimites in Egypt (969–1171), and the technique continued in use at major pottery centers over the centuries that followed. During the 13th cent. Mongol domination of Persia brought renewed Chinese influence to Islamic pottery making. Fine examples of Hispano-Moorish pottery date from the 14th cent. Islamic architecture in the 15th cent. utilized ceramic tile in immense quantities, as on the Blue Mosque at Tabriz.
Pottery of Europe
In Europe there was little pottery of great aesthetic importance before the 15th cent., except perhaps some German stonewares. Majolica was mainly developed in Italy and from there spread to Spain, France (where it was called faience), and to Holland (where it came to be known as delftware). Majolica and stoneware were the main pottery forms in Europe until the advent (18th cent.) of porcelain.
Pottery of the Americas
Prehistoric pottery found in Peru, Mexico, and the SW United States reveals a high degree of skill in color, form, and decorative motifs. Baked-clay work by colonists in North America began in 1612 with the making of bricks and tiles in Virginia and Pennsylvania. In these states and among the Dutch settlers of New York, potteries were soon established. The first whiteware was made in 1684. A stoneware factory was opened in New York in 1735, and c.1750 the Jugtown pottery of North Carolina was first produced. Terra-cotta works were operating in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania after the middle of the 18th cent. Palatinate refugees produced slip-decorated and graffito earthenware, and their product formed the foundation of Shenandoah pottery.
In Philadelphia fine china was made (1769) for the first time in America. The potteries of Bennington, Vt., which opened in 1793, were known especially for their stoneware jugs; a variety of stoneware was also produced in several locations in New York state. East Liverpool, Ohio, since 1839 one of the foremost centers of the industry, produced the first American Rockingham ware. Also widely produced in the United States were redware, ironstone, and yellowware. Another center, begun in 1852 at Trenton, N.J., made fine Belleek or eggshell china. The Centennial Exposition of 1876 in Philadelphia and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago did much to awaken native consciousness of pottery as a form of art.
American art pottery flourished in the first half of the 20th cent., with works created by a variety of artisans, many of whom were employed by companies such as the Rookwood Pottery and Cincinnati Art Pottery. Much collected in the decades that followed, this art pottery was created in such styles as art nouveau, arts and crafts, and art deco. In addition, many of the major artists of the 20th cent. created exquisite ceramic works. Especially notable are those by Picasso, Matisse, and Miró. In spite of the continuing development of mass-production techniques and synthetic materials, the demand for hand-crafted ware of fine quality has not diminished. A variety of artisans make utilitarian objects as well as works of art using many methods of pottery production. Moreover, indigenous peoples, notably native Americans, continue to create a number of vessels adapted from traditional forms.
See L. A. Boger, The Dictionary of World Pottery and Porcelain (1970); W. E. Cox, Book of Pottery and Porcelain (2 vol., rev. ed. 1970); E. Cooper, A History of Pottery (1973); G. Savage and H. Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Ceramics (1974); R. Fournier, The Illustrated Dictionary of Pottery Decoration (1986).
Though a fragile medium, practiced largely by anonymous artisans, pottery is nevertheless an art form for which there is ample and definitive attribution to enslaved Africans and African Americans. It thus forms part of a larger picture of skilled labor performed by slaves for the benefit and profit of slaveholders and at the same time provides eloquent evidence of the skill and creative vision of enslaved artists.
The manifests of slave ships identify some of their captured Africans as artisans, suggesting a greater monetary value for these individuals. These slaves arrived in the Americas with skills in traditional African weaving, metalworking, woodcarving, and pottery making. Others were trained during their bondage. The demand for skilled craftsmen in the colonies created a strong market for the labor of these individuals; slaveholders not only used their services on the plantation and in their own households but also rented out their labor and sold their wares, which included furniture, decorative ironwork, and ceramic pots. Advertisements for the return of runaway slaves describe a range of craftspeople and artisans, including carpenters, blacksmiths, and musicians; for example, Abram Hook of Howe's Ferry, Virginia, advertised a twenty-dollar reward for a runaway named Jack, who "since becoming my property was put to the carpenter's trade" (National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, August 18, 1806).
Pottery was produced in several areas, including Alabama, northern Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and the western Carolinas. A thriving pottery-making enterprise, based in part on skilled slave labor, emerged in the Edgefield district of South Carolina (present-day Edgefield, Greenwood, McCormick, Saluda, and Aiken counties) in the early 1800s, using the rich clay deposits of the area to produce a distinctive stoneware with an alkaline glaze made from wood ash or lime. The glazes were typically yellow-green, olive green, or brown, and the pots were mostly utilitarian storage vessels of varying size. The pottery mills and shops, operated by white planters, relied on the labor of both white potters and skilled slaves.
In addition to utilitarian storage jars, an art form known as the "face vessel" is also attributed to the slave potters of Edgefield. Ranging in size from four to nine inches high, these vessels depict a human face in relief on one side. Commonly called "voodoo jugs" in the nineteenth century, they are often referred to as Afro-Carolinian by present-day historians. Their purpose is unknown, but it is conjectured that they had a ritual significance, in part because of their small size. Fragments have been found at burial sites, either cracked or perforated with holes, and historians speculate that the vessels were mortuary artifacts that served a protective role. The vessels are distinguished by the use of two different clays to depict, for example, white teeth and brown skin. They bear a similarity to African Kongo pottery, a relation that is supported by evidence that Kongo slaves were among the Edgefield potters.
Dave the Potter
The most significant examples of Edgefield pottery are the works created by a slave known as Dave (who later, following Emancipation, took the last name of Drake); his pots are distinguished by their aesthetic qualities as well as their impressive size. Perhaps even more remarkable, many are signed, and several are decorated with inscriptions of verse by the artist.
Current research dates Dave's birth at around 1800, to one of eight slaves brought from North Carolina by Samuel Landrum. During his early years Dave worked for one of Samuel's sons, Abner Landrum, who is described as a physician, "scientific" farmer, newspaper publisher, and pottery manufacturer. It is speculated that Dave acquired his literacy during his service as a typesetter for Abner's two newspapers, The South Carolina Republican and The Edgefield Hive, and it is likely that he learned the potter's craft from him as well. Abner Landrum moved from Edgefield around 1831; Dave remained in Edgefield, perhaps because of his value as a skilled potter, and was eventually passed to Lewis Miles, owner of Miles Mill Factory. Many of Dave's surviving pots are inscribed "LM" and are assumed to be among the hundreds (if not thousands) he produced for Miles.
Most of Dave's pots are dated from 1834 through 1864. Earlier unsigned works from the Landrum Pottery may be his as well, as they demonstrate a similarity of form. His pots, mostly storage vessels, are wider at the shoulders than are other Edgefield pots, tapering to a more typical base. They are distinguished by their bold aesthetic, their rich brown or green glaze, and their remarkable scale. The vessels were made by turning the base on a potter's wheel, then adding coils to create the upper parts, smoothing the clay so that the attachment was seamless. Before firing, the alkaline drip glaze was applied. At the Miles Mill, Dave made larger jars, some of which exceed a capacity of twenty gallons. One of his largest works is a forty-gallon storage jar that bears the inscriptions "Great and Noble jar / Hold sheep, goat, or bear" and "LM [for Lewis Miles] May 13, 1859 / Dave & Baddler [another slave potter]." In this case, the size of the vessel is thought to have required collaboration, simply by the weight of the clay.
Many of Dave's inscriptions refer to the size or purpose of the vessel, and many are rhymed couplets. For example, a jar dated April 12, 1858, is inscribed "A very large jar which has four handles / pack it full of fresh meat—then light candles." Other inscriptions address a variety of subjects, including references to relations with women: "Another trick is worst than this / Dearest Miss, spare me a kiss" (on a pot dated August 26, 1840). A pot dated April 14, 1859, is apparently a dedication to Abner Landrum, who died that year: "When Noble Dr. Landrum is dead / May Guardian Angels visit his bed."
Dave's inscriptions have aroused much speculation among historians. At a time when literacy was forbidden to slaves (an 1837 South Carolina law made it illegal to teach slaves to read and write), Dave not only boldly marked his name, he inscribed verses that offered commentary on a range of subjects, including his own bondage: "Dave belongs to Mr. Miles / wher the oven bakes & the pot biles" (July 31, 1840). Some scholars interpret his inscriptions as not only rare examples of self-expression but as a thinly veiled protest of his bondage. A pot dated July 4, 1859, declares "The fourth of July is surely come / to blow the fife and beat the drum"; though the verse appears to celebrate "Independence Day," it may also suggest African drumming (forbidden by slaveholders as a possible tool of revolt), thus making a poignant reference to freedom.
Dave probably lived until at least 1870; the U.S. Census of that year lists a Dave Drake, a seventy-year-old "turner," as skilled potters of the time were called, born in South Carolina. His works survive in fair number, considering their age and utilitarian nature; more than one hundred exist in various collections, including those of the American Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Baldwin, Cinda K. Great and Noble Jar: Traditional Stoneware of South Carolina. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993.
De Groft, Aaron. "Eloquent Vessels, Poetics of Power: The Heroic Stoneware of 'Dave the Potter.'" Winterthur Portfolio 33, no. 4 (winter 1998): 249-260.
Koverman, Jill Beaute, ed. I Made This Jar: The Life and Works of the Enslaved African American Potter, Dave. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.
The National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, Washington, DC, August 18, 1806. Available from http://web6.infotrack.galegroup.com.
The Earliest Pottery. The term pottery may refer to any variety of vessel or plate made of clay that has been fired, or hardened by heating, typically in an oven, or kiln. Because styles of pottery change over time and between regions, it is one of the most important diagnostic tools available to archaeologists for dating sites and distinguishing cultures. For example, undecorated pottery shapes, made for everyday use, are useful for understanding what people cooked, stored, or carried between sites. The earliest known pottery was found in northwest Syria and dates to around 8000 b.c.e. These clay containers may have been accidentally fired. It was not until the seventh millennium b.c.e. that the use of pottery became widespread in the farming villages of the Near East. Over time, distinctive styles of pottery emerged in different regions. In Mesopotamia, northern forms are called Hassuna and Halaf, and styles that developed further south are Samarran and Ubaid. During the Jamdat Nasr period (circa 3000 - circa 2900 b.c.e.) some vessels were painted with geometric designs in a distinctive, plum-colored paint. Sometimes, figures, animals, and vegetation were also included within panels. A later form of this pottery, known as “Scarlet Ware,” is found in the Diyala region of eastern Mesopotamia and dates to the Early Dynastic I period (circa 2900 - circa 2750 b.c.e.).
Southern Pottery Traditions. Unlike the often elaborately decorated and finely made vessels of the earliest periods, Uruk period pottery of the late fourth millennium b.c.e. is notable for its lack of decoration and its mass production in molds or on the newly developed fast wheel. From the Akkadian period (circa 2334 - circa 2154 b.c.e.) through the Achaemenid
empire (559-331 b.c.e.), southern Mesopotamian pottery was largely undecorated and utilitarian. Vessels were made on potters’ wheels and generally buff in color. In the Isin-Larsa period (circa 2004 - circa 1763 b.c.e.) white inlay was sometimes used to decorate jars.
Northern Decorative Traditions. Until the end of the second millennium b.c.e., styles of northern Mesopotamian pottery were distinct from those of the south. In the north, a style of pottery painted with geometric designs in dark paint, known as Ninevite 5, was first identified in level 5 at Nineveh, which dates from circa 3000 - circa 2500 b.c.e.; later forms included incised and excised patterns in the surface. A distinctive pottery form that is often associated with Hurrian peoples of the mid-second millennium b.c.e. is found widely over much of north Mesopotamia, from Alalakh in the west to Nuzi in the east. The finest examples of this pottery, known under a variety of names, are beakers with black paint over-painted with delicate white designs.
First Millennium B.C.E. In the first millennium b.c.e., pottery across Mesopotamia was largely utilitarian. One exception was what is now called “palace ware,” eggshell-thin vessels produced by the Assyrians. In the Achaemenid and succeeding empires (from 539 b.c.e.) surface designs made by impressions of stamp seals became common. The use of glaze on pottery, known from the second millennium b.c.e., became much more popular following the Hellenistic period.
Ian Freestone and David R. M. Gaimster, Pottery in the Making: World Ceramic Traditions (London: British Museum Press, 1997).
P. R. S. Moorey, Materials and Manufacture in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Evidence of Archaeology and Art: Metals and Metalwork, Glazed Materials and Glass, British Archaeological Reports (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).
Max Wykes-Joyce, 7000 Years of Pottery and Porcelain (London: Owen, 1958).
pot·ter·y / ˈpätərē/ • n. (pl. -er·ies) pots, dishes, and other articles made of earthenware or baked clay. Pottery can be broadly divided into earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware. ∎ the craft or profession of making such ware: courses include drawing, painting, and pottery. ∎ a factory or workshop where such ware is made.
See also 369. SKILL and CRAFT .
- ceramics, keramics
- 1. the art and technology of making objects of clay and other materials treated by firing.
- 2. articles of earthenware, porcelain, etc. —ceramist, keramist, ceramicist, keramicist, n.
- an historical or descriptive work on pottery.