Tuesday 4 October 2011

Ancient pottery can teach us a thing or two

I love looking at ancient pottery. At first glance, many of the pieces may appear quite primitive and crude, but I find great beauty in their simple and functional designs. No doubt these are pots which were produced under difficult circumstances, using less than ideal materials, and yet they were often elaborately decorated..the potters took time and care to make their work attractive as well as useful. The fact that many of these pieces have survived for thousands of years, buried in the earth, is testament to the skill and determination of the craftspeople who created them.

One design I'm very drawn to is the bronze-age beaker vessel:

Bronze age beaker
 Image borrowed from: http://www.museum.hu/museum/temporary_en.php?IDT=8157&ID=510

This form is incredibly beautiful, yet highly functional too. The flared rim created an angled lip which is comfortable to drink from and easy to grip with one hand. The rounded base would have been pleasant to hold in both hands as well as being suited to uneven, earth floors; when half full of liquid, it would be quite difficult to knock over.

The colours of these ancient works of art are also wonderful. There are the burnt hues created when the iron-rich clay was fired, probably in an open bonfire, the chips and scratches from everyday use..and then the earthy patina acquired from being in the ground for many hundreds of years.


  1. I wonder who these potters were...how they learned their craft? Were their parents potters? Did they hold some special social status for their talent at taking earth and changing it into a vessel that could hold something sanctified? How were these pots treated by their users? Were they cherished? Passed down to heirs? Buried with the owners? So many questions provoked by this piece.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Sam. I agree, so many mysteries..so much unseen history attached to this object..