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Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil material containing clay minerals (hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, e.g. kaolin, aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4). Clays develop plasticity (physics), plasticity when wet, du ...

clay
and other
ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing an inorganic, nonmetallic material, such as clay, at a high temperature. Common examples are earthenware, porcelain, ...

ceramic
materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include
earthenware Earthenware is glazed or unglazed Vitrification#Ceramics, nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below . Basic earthenware, often called terracotta, absorbs liquids such as water. However, earthenware can be made impervious to liquids ...

earthenware
,
stoneware Stoneware is a rather broad term for pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Maj ...
and
porcelain Porcelain () is a ceramic material made by heating Chemical substance, substances, generally including materials such as kaolinite, in a kiln to temperatures between . The strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pot ...

porcelain
. The place where such wares are made by a ''potter'' is also called a ''pottery'' (plural "potteries"). The definition of ''pottery'', used by the
ASTM International ASTM International, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials, is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical International standard, standards for a wide range of material ...
, is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products". In art history and
archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes ...
, especially of ancient and prehistoric periods, "pottery" often means vessels only, and
sculpted
sculpted
figurines of the same material are called "
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; ; ), in its material sense as an earthenware substrate, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials m ...

terracotta
s". Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, originating before the
Neolithic period The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts ...
, with ceramic objects like the
Gravettian The Gravettian was an archaeological industry of the European Upper Paleolithic that succeeded the Aurignacian circa 33,000 years BP. It is archaeologically the last European culture many consider unified, and had mostly disappeared by &nbs ...
culture Venus of Dolní Věstonice figurine discovered in the Czech Republic dating back to 29,000–25,000 BC, and pottery vessels that were discovered in
Jiangxi Jiangxi (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Kiangsi or Chianghsi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in East China, the east of the China, People's Republic of China. Its major cities include Nanchang and Jiujiang. Spannin ...

Jiangxi
, China, which date back to 18,000 BC. Early Neolithic and pre-Neolithic pottery artifacts have been found, in Jōmon Japan (10,500 BC), the Russian Far East (14,000 BC), Sub-Saharan Africa (9,400 BC), Simon Bradley, ''A Swiss-led team of archaeologists has discovered pieces of the oldest African pottery in central Mali, dating back to at least 9,400BC''
, SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), 18 January 2007
South America (9,000s–7,000s BC), and the Middle East (7,000s–6,000s BC). Pottery is made by forming a ceramic (often clay) body into objects of a desired shape and heating them to high temperatures (600–1600 °C) in a
bonfire A bonfire is a large and controlled outdoor fire, used either for informal disposal of burnable waste material or as part of a celebration. Etymology The earliest recorded uses of the word date back to the late 15th century, with the Cath ...

bonfire
, pit or
kiln A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven, that produces temperatures sufficient to complete some process, such as hardening, drying, or chemical changes. Kilns have been used for millennia to turn objects made from clay int ...

kiln
and induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing the strength and rigidity of the object. Much pottery is purely utilitarian, but some can also be regarded as
ceramic art Ceramic art is art made from ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing an inorganic, nonmetallic material, such as clay, at a high temperature ...
. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Clay-based pottery can be divided into three main groups:
earthenware Earthenware is glazed or unglazed Vitrification#Ceramics, nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below . Basic earthenware, often called terracotta, absorbs liquids such as water. However, earthenware can be made impervious to liquids ...

earthenware
,
stoneware Stoneware is a rather broad term for pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Maj ...
and
porcelain Porcelain () is a ceramic material made by heating Chemical substance, substances, generally including materials such as kaolinite, in a kiln to temperatures between . The strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pot ...

porcelain
. These require increasingly more specific clay material, and increasingly higher firing temperatures. All three are made in glazed and unglazed varieties, for different purposes. All may also be decorated by various techniques. In many examples the group a piece belongs to is immediately visually apparent, but this is not always the case. The
fritware Fritware, also known as stone-paste, is a type of pottery in which frit (ground glass) is added to clay to reduce its fusion temperature. The mixture may include quartz or other siliceous material. An organic compound such as Natural gum, gum o ...
of the Islamic world does not use clay, so technically falls outside these groups. Historic pottery of all these types is often grouped as either "fine" wares, relatively expensive and well-made, and following the aesthetic taste of the culture concerned, or alternatively "coarse", "popular", "folk" or "village" wares, mostly undecorated, or simply so, and often less well-made. Cooking in clay pots became less popular once metal pots became available, but is still used for dishes that depend on the qualities of pottery cooking, such as
biryani Biryani () is a mixed rice dish originating among the Islam in South Asia, Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. It is made with Indian spices, rice, and usually some type of meat (chicken, beef, goat, Lamb (food), lamb, prawn, fish) or in som ...

biryani
,
cassoulet Cassoulet (, also , ; ; from Occitan language, Occitan and cognates with Spanish: ''cazoleta'' and Catalan: ''cassolet'') is a rich, slow-cooked stew containing meat (typically pork sausages, goose, duck and sometimes Lamb and mutton, mutton), ...

cassoulet
,
daube Daube is a classic Provence#Cuisine, Provençal (or more broadly, French) stew made with inexpensive beef Braising, braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and ''herbes de Provence'', and traditionally cooked in a daubière, a braising pan. A tradit ...
, tagine,
jollof rice Jollof (), or jollof rice, is a rice dish from West African cuisine, West Africa. The dish is typically made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, spices, vegetables and meat in a single pot, although its ingredients and preparation methods va ...

jollof rice
,
kedjenou Kedjenou (also known as Kedjenou poulet and Kedjenou de Poulet) is a spicy stew that is slow-cooked in a sealed ''canari'' (Terracotta, terra-cotta pot) over fire or coals and prepared with Chicken (food), chicken or Guineafowl, guinea hen and v ...
,
cazuela Cazuela ( or ) is the common name given to a variety of dish (food), dishes, especially from South America. It receives its name from the ''cazuela'' (Spanish for cooking pot) – traditionally, an often shallow pot made of Ceramic glaze, unglaz ...
, and
baked beans Baked beans is a Dish (food), dish traditionally containing white beans that are parboiling, parboiled and then, in the US, baking, baked in sauce at low temperature for a lengthy period. In the United Kingdom, the dish is sometimes baked, but u ...

baked beans
.


Main types


Earthenware

The earliest forms of pottery were made from clays that were fired at low temperatures, initially in pit-fires or in open bonfires. They were hand formed and undecorated. Earthenware can be fired as low as 600 °C, and is normally fired below 1200 °C. Because unglazed
biscuit A biscuit is a flour, flour-based baked and shaped food product. In most countries biscuits are typically hard, flat, and unleavened. They are usually sweet and may be made with sugar, chocolate, icing (food), icing, jam, ginger, or cinnamon. T ...
earthenware is porous, it has limited utility for the storage of liquids or as tableware. However, earthenware has had a continuous history from the
Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several pa ...
period to today. It can be made from a wide variety of clays, some of which fire to a buff, brown or black colour, with iron in the constituent minerals resulting in a reddish-brown. Reddish coloured varieties are called
terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; ; ), in its material sense as an earthenware substrate, is a clay-based unglazed or glazed ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials m ...

terracotta
, especially when unglazed or used for sculpture. The development of
ceramic glaze Ceramic glaze is an impervious layer or coating of a vitreous substance which has been fused to a pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired ...
made impermeable pottery possible, improving the popularity and practicality of pottery vessels. The addition of decoration has evolved throughout its history.


Stoneware

Stoneware is pottery that has been fired in a kiln at a relatively high temperature, from about 1,100 °C to 1,200 °C, and is stronger and non-porous to liquids.Cooper (2010), p. 54 The Chinese, who developed stoneware very early on, classify this together with porcelain as high-fired wares. In contrast, stoneware could only be produced in Europe from the late Middle Ages, as European kilns were less efficient, and the right type of clay less common. It remained a speciality of Germany until the Renaissance. Stoneware is very tough and practical, and much of it has always been utilitarian, for the kitchen or storage rather than the table. But "fine" stoneware has been important in
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...

China
,
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...

Japan
and the West, and continues to be made. Many utilitarian types have also come to be appreciated as art.


Porcelain

Porcelain is made by heating materials, generally including
kaolin Kaolinite ( ) is a clay mineral, with the chemical composition Al2 Si2 O5( OH)4. It is an important industrial mineral. It is a layered silicate mineral Silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals made up of silicate groups. They are ...

kaolin
, in a
kiln A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven, that produces temperatures sufficient to complete some process, such as hardening, drying, or chemical changes. Kilns have been used for millennia to turn objects made from clay int ...

kiln
to temperatures between . This is higher than used for the other types, and achieving these temperatures was a long struggle, as well as realizing what materials were needed. The toughness, strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pottery, arises mainly from
vitrification Vitrification (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around p ...

vitrification
and the formation of the mineral
mullite Mullite or porcelainite is a rare silicate mineral Silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals made up of silicate groups. They are the largest and most important class of minerals and make up approximately 90 percent of Earth's crust. In m ...
within the body at these high temperatures. Although porcelain was first made in China, the Chinese traditionally do not recognise it as a distinct category, grouping it with stoneware as "high-fired" ware, opposed to "low-fired" earthenware. This confuses the issue of when it was first made. A degree of translucency and whiteness was achieved by the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
(AD 618–906), and considerable quantities were being exported. The modern level of whiteness was not reached until much later, in the 14th century. Porcelain was also made in Korea and in Japan from the end of the 16th century, after suitable kaolin was located in those countries. It was not made effectively outside East Asia until the 18th century.


Archaeology

The study of pottery can help to provide an insight into past cultures. Fabric analysis (see section below), used to analyse the ''fabric of pottery'', is important part of archaeology for understanding the
archaeological culture An archaeological culture is a recurring Assemblage (archaeology), assemblage of types of Artifact (archaeology), artifacts, buildings and monuments from a specific period and region that may constitute the material culture remains of a particular ...
of the excavated site by studying the fabric of artifacts, such as their usage, source material composition, decorative pattern, color of patterns, etc. This helps to understand characteristics, sophistication, habits, technology, tools, trade, etc. of the people who made and used the pottery.
Carbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was ...
reveals the age. Sites with similar pottery characteristics have the same culture, those sites which have distinct cultural characteristics but with some overlap are indicative of cultural exchange such as trade or living in vicinity or continuity of habitation, etc. Examples are black and red ware, redware, Sothi-Siswal culture and
Painted Grey Ware culture The Painted Grey Ware culture (PGW) is an Iron Age Indian culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and Social norm, norms found in human Society, societies, as well as the knowledge, bel ...
. The is a good example of use of fabric analysis in identifying a differentiated culture which was earlier thought to be typical
Indus Valley civilisation The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Indus Civilisation was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 Common Era, BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form 2600 B ...

Indus Valley civilisation
(IVC) culture. Pottery is durable, and fragments, at least, often survive long after artifacts made from less-durable materials have decayed past recognition. Combined with other evidence, the study of pottery artefacts is helpful in the development of theories on the organisation, economic condition and the cultural development of the societies that produced or acquired pottery. The study of pottery may also allow inferences to be drawn about a culture's daily life, religion, social relationships, attitudes towards neighbours, attitudes to their own world and even the way the culture understood the universe. Chronologies based on pottery are often essential for dating non-literate cultures and are often of help in the dating of historic cultures as well. Trace-element analysis, mostly by
neutron activation Neutron activation is the process in which neutron radiation induces radioactivity in materials, and occurs when atomic nuclei capture free neutrons, becoming heavier and entering excited states. The excited nucleus decays immediately by emi ...
, allows the sources of clay to be accurately identified and the
thermoluminescence Thermoluminescence is a form of luminescence that is exhibited by certain crystalline materials, such as some minerals, when previously absorbed energy from electromagnetic radiation In physics, electromagnetic radiation (EMR) consists o ...
test can be used to provide an estimate of the date of last firing. Examining fired pottery shards from prehistory, scientists learned that during high-temperature firing, iron materials in clay record the exact state of the
Earth's magnetic field Earth's magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from Earth's interior out into space, where it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun. The magnetic ...
at that exact moment.


Source material


Fabric analysis

The ''"clay body"'' is also called the ''"paste"'' or the ''"fabric"'', which consists of 2 things, the ''"clay matrix"'' – composed of grains of less than 0.02 mm grains which can be seen using the high-powered microscopes or a (SEM), and the ''"clay inclusions"'' – which are larger grains of clay and could be seen with the naked eye or a low-power binocular microscope. For geologists, fabric analysis means spatial arrangement of minerals in a rock. For Archaeologists, the ''"fabric analysis"'' of pottery entails the study of ''clay matrix'' and ''inclusions'' in the clay body as well as the ''firing temperature and conditions''. Analysis is done to examine the following 3 in detail:Fabric Analysis
, cambridge.org, accessed 10 July 021.
* how pottery was made e.g. material, design such as shape and style, etc. * its decorations, such as patterns, colors of patterns, slipped (glazing) or unslipped decoration * evidence of type of use. The is a good example of fabric analysis.


Clay bodies and mineral contents

Body (or clay body) is a term for the main pottery form of a piece, underneath any glaze or decoration. The main ingredient of the body is
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil material containing clay minerals (hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, e.g. kaolin, aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4). Clays develop plasticity (physics), plasticity when wet, du ...

clay
. There are several materials that are referred to as clay. The properties which make them different include: Plasticity, the malleability of the body; the extent to which they will absorb water after firing; and shrinkage, the extent of reduction in size of a body as water is removed. Different clay bodies also differ in the way in which they respond when fired in the kiln. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Prior to some shaping processes, clay must be prepared. Each of these different clays is composed of different types and amounts of minerals that determine the characteristics of resulting pottery. There can be regional variations in the properties of raw materials used for the production of pottery, and these can lead to wares that are unique in character to a locality. It is common for clays and other materials to be mixed to produce clay bodies suited to specific purposes. A common component of clay bodies is the mineral
kaolinite Kaolinite ( ) is a clay mineral, with the chemical composition aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4. It is an important industrial mineral. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedron, tetrahedral sheet of silica () ...

kaolinite
. Other minerals in the clay, such as
feldspar Feldspars are a group of rock-forming aluminium Aluminium (aluminum in American and Canadian English) is a chemical element A chemical element is a species of atoms that have a given number of protons in their atomic nucleus, ...

feldspar
, act as fluxes which lower the
vitrification Vitrification (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around p ...

vitrification
temperature of bodies. Following is a list of different types of clay used for pottery. *
Kaolin Kaolinite ( ) is a clay mineral, with the chemical composition Al2 Si2 O5( OH)4. It is an important industrial mineral. It is a layered silicate mineral Silicate minerals are rock-forming minerals made up of silicate groups. They are ...

Kaolin
, is sometimes referred to as
china clay Kaolinite ( ) is a clay mineral, with the chemical composition aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4. It is an important industrial mineral. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedron, tetrahedral sheet of silica () ...
because it was first used in China. Used for
porcelain Porcelain () is a ceramic material made by heating Chemical substance, substances, generally including materials such as kaolinite, in a kiln to temperatures between . The strength and translucence of porcelain, relative to other types of pot ...

porcelain
. *
Ball clay Ball clays are kaolinitic sedimentary clays that commonly consist of 20–80% kaolinite, 10–25% mica, 6–65% quartz Quartz is a hard, crystalline mineral composed of silica ( silicon dioxide). The atoms are linked in a continuous fra ...
: An extremely plastic, fine grained
sedimentary Sedimentary rocks are types of rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at Earth#Surface, Earth's surface, followed by cementation (geology), cementation. Sedimentati ...

sedimentary
clay, which may contain some organic matter. Small amounts can be added to porcelain bodies to increase plasticity. *
Fire clay Fire clay is a range of refractory clays used in the manufacture of ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing an inorganic, nonmetallic material, ...
: A clay having a slightly lower percentage of fluxes than kaolin, but usually quite plastic. It is highly heat resistant form of clay which can be combined with other clays to increase the firing temperature and may be used as an ingredient to make stoneware type bodies. *
Stoneware Stoneware is a rather broad term for pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Maj ...
clay Clay is a type of fine-grained natural soil material containing clay minerals (hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, e.g. kaolin, aluminium, Al2Silicon, Si2Oxygen, O5(hydroxide, OH)4). Clays develop plasticity (physics), plasticity when wet, du ...

clay
: Suitable for creating stoneware. Has many of the characteristics between fire clay and ball clay, having finer grain, like ball clay but is more heat resistant like fire clays. * Common red clay and
shale Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock formed from mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals (hydrous aluminium phyllosilicates, e.g. kaolin, Al2 Si2 O5( OH)4) and tiny fragments ( silt-sized particles) of other minerals, espec ...
clay have vegetable and ferric oxide impurities which make them useful for bricks, but are generally unsatisfactory for pottery except under special conditions of a particular deposit. *
Bentonite Bentonite () is an absorbent swelling clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite (a type of smectite) which can either be Na-montmorillonite or Ca-montmorillonite. Na-montmorillonite has a considerably greater swelling capacity than Ca- ...
: An extremely plastic clay which can be added in small quantities to short clay to increase the plasticity.


Production of pottery

Production of pottery includes the following three stages: * making clay body, i.e. paste or putty. * shaping and moulding * firing or baking * decorating, such as glazing (slipping), painting, etc.


Shaping methods

Pottery can be shaped by a range of methods that include:


Firing

Firing produces irreversible changes in the body. It is only after firing that the article or material is pottery. In lower-fired pottery, the changes include
sintering image:LDClinkerScaled.jpg, Clinker (cement), Clinker nodules produced by sintering Sintering or frittage is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by pressure or heat without melting it to the point of liquefaction. Si ...
, the fusing together of coarser particles in the body at their points of contact with each other. In the case of porcelain, where different materials and higher firing-temperatures are used, the physical, chemical and mineralogical properties of the constituents in the body are greatly altered. In all cases, the reason for firing is to permanently harden the wares and the firing regime must be appropriate to the materials used to make them. As a rough guide, modern earthenwares are normally fired at temperatures in the range of about 1,000° C (1,830 °F) to ; stonewares at between about to ; and porcelains at between about to . Historically, reaching high temperatures was a long-lasting challenge, and earthenware can be fired effectively as low as 600° C, achievable in primitive pit firing.


Firing methods

Firing pottery can be done using a variety of methods, with a
kiln A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven, that produces temperatures sufficient to complete some process, such as hardening, drying, or chemical changes. Kilns have been used for millennia to turn objects made from clay int ...

kiln
being the usual firing method. Both the maximum temperature and the duration of firing influences the final characteristics of the ceramic. Thus, the maximum temperature within a kiln is often held constant for a period of time to ''soak'' the wares to produce the maturity required in the body of the wares. The atmosphere within a kiln during firing can affect the appearance of the finished wares. An oxidising atmosphere, produced by allowing an excess of air in the kiln, can cause the
oxidation Redox (reduction–oxidation, , ) is a type of chemical reaction in which the oxidation states of substrate (chemistry), substrate change. Oxidation is the loss of Electron, electrons or an increase in the oxidation state, while reduction ...
of clays and glazes. A
reducing atmosphere A reducing atmosphere is an atmospheric An atmosphere () is a layer of gas or layers of gases that envelop a planet, and is held in place by the gravity of the planetary body. A planet retains an atmosphere when the gravity is great and th ...
, produced by limiting the flow of air into the kiln, or burning coal rather than wood, can strip oxygen from the surface of clays and glazes. This can affect the appearance of the wares being fired and, for example, some glazes containing
iron Iron () is a chemical element with Symbol (chemistry), symbol Fe (from la, Wikt:ferrum, ferrum) and atomic number 26. It is a metal that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 element, group 8 of the periodic table. It is, Abundance ...
-rich minerals fire brown in an oxidising atmosphere, but green in a reducing atmosphere. The atmosphere within a kiln can be adjusted to produce complex effects in glaze. Kilns may be heated by burning
wood Wood is a porous and fibrous structural tissue found in the Plant stem, stems and roots of trees and other woody plants. It is an organic materiala natural composite material, composite of cellulose fibers that are strong in tension and emb ...
,
coal Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as stratum, rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other Chemical element, elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen ...
and
gas Gas is one of the four fundamental states of matter In physics, a state of matter is one of the distinct forms in which matter can exist. Four states of matter are observable in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and Plasma (physics), pl ...
, or by
electricity Electricity is the set of physics, physical Phenomenon, phenomena associated with the presence and motion of matter that has a property of electric charge. Electricity is related to magnetism, both being part of the phenomenon of electromagne ...
. When used as fuels, coal and wood can introduce smoke, soot and ash into the kiln which can affect the appearance of unprotected wares. For this reason, wares fired in wood- or coal-fired kilns are often placed in the kiln in
saggar A saggar (also misspelled as sagger or segger) is a type of kiln furniture Kiln furniture are devices and implements inside furnaces used during the heating of manufactured individual pieces, such as pottery or other ceramic or metal component ...
s, ceramic boxes, to protect them. Modern kilns powered by gas or electricity are cleaner and more easily controlled than older wood- or coal-fired kilns and often allow shorter firing times to be used. In a Western adaptation of traditional Japanese
Raku ware is a type of Japanese pottery traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, most often in the form of '' chawan'' tea bowls. It is traditionally characterised by being hand-shaped rather than thrown, fairly porous vessels, which result from low ...
firing, wares are removed from the kiln while hot and smothered in ashes, paper or woodchips which produces a distinctive carbonised appearance. This technique is also used in Malaysia in creating traditional ''labu sayung''. In
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali,, , ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, italics=no, ar, جمهورية مالي, Jumhūriyyāt Mālī is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali ...
, a firing mound is used rather than a brick or stone kiln. Unfired pots are first brought to the place where a mound will be built, customarily by the women and girls of the village. The mound's foundation is made by placing sticks on the ground, then:


Firing stages

Before being shaped, clay must be prepared.
Kneading In cooking (and more specifically baking), kneading is a process in the making of bread or dough, used to mix the ingredients and add strength to the final product. Its importance lies in the mixing of flour with water; when these two ingredient ...
helps to ensure an even moisture content throughout the body. Air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished either by a machine called a vacuum
pug The Pug is a breed of dog originally from China, with physically distinctive features of a wrinkly, short-muzzled face and curled tail. The breed has a fine, glossy coat that comes in a variety of colors, most often light brown (Fawn (colour) ...
or manually by wedging. Wedging can also help produce an even moisture content. Once a clay body has been kneaded and de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques. After it has been shaped, it is dried and then fired. * '' Greenware'' refers to unfired objects. At sufficient moisture content, bodies at this stage are in their most plastic form (as they are soft and malleable, and hence can be easily deformed by handling). * ''
Leather-hard In pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include earthenware, stone ...
'' refers to a clay body that has been dried partially. At this stage the clay object has approximately 15% moisture content. Clay bodies at this stage are very firm and only slightly pliable. Trimming and handle attachment often occurs at the leather-hard state. * ''Bone-dry'' refers to clay bodies when they reach a moisture content at or near 0%. At that moisture content, the item is ready to be fired. Additionally, the piece is extremely fragile at this stage and must be handled with extreme care. * ''
Biscuit A biscuit is a flour, flour-based baked and shaped food product. In most countries biscuits are typically hard, flat, and unleavened. They are usually sweet and may be made with sugar, chocolate, icing (food), icing, jam, ginger, or cinnamon. T ...
'' (or bisque) refers to the clay after the object is shaped to the desired form and fired in the kiln for the first time, known as "bisque fired" or "biscuit fired". This firing changes the clay body in several ways. Mineral components of the clay body will undergo chemical and physical changes that will change the material. * ''Glaze fired'' is the final stage of some pottery making, or ''glost fired''. A glaze may be applied to the bisque form and the object can be decorated in several ways. After this the object is "glazed fired", which causes the glaze material to melt, then adhere to the object. Depending on the temperature schedule the glaze firing may also further mature the body as chemical and physical changes continue.


Decorating

Pottery may be decorated in many different ways. Some decoration can be done before or after the firing.


Decoration methods

* Painting has been used since early prehistoric times (
China painting China painting, or porcelain painting, is the decoration of glazed porcelain objects such as plates, bowls, vases or statues. The body of the object may be hard-paste porcelain, developed in China in the 7th or 8th century, or soft-paste porcel ...
), and can be very elaborate. The painting is often applied to pottery that has been fired once, and may then be overlaid with a glaze afterwards. Many
pigment A pigment is a colored material that is completely or nearly Solubility, insoluble in water. In contrast, dyes are typically soluble, at least at some stage in their use. Generally dyes are often organic compounds whereas pigments are often inorg ...
s change colour when fired, and the painter must allow for this. * Glaze: Perhaps the most common form of decoration, that also serves as protection to the pottery, by being tougher and keeping liquid from penetrating the pottery. Glaze may be clear, especially over painting, or coloured and opaque. There is more detail in the section below. *
Carving Carving is the act of using tools to shape something from a material by scraping away portions of that material. The technique can be applied to any material that is solid enough to hold a form even when pieces have been removed from it, and ...
: Pottery vessels may be decorated by shallow carving of the clay body, typically with a knife or similar instrument used on the wheel. This is common in Chinese porcelain of the classic periods. * Burnishing: The surface of pottery wares may be ''burnished'' prior to firing by rubbing with a suitable instrument of wood, steel or stone to produce a polished finish that survives firing. It is possible to produce very highly polished wares when fine clays are used or when the polishing is carried out on wares that have been partially dried and contain little water, though wares in this condition are extremely fragile and the risk of breakage is high. *
Terra Sigillata Terra sigillata is a term with at least three distinct meanings: as a description of medieval medicinal earth; in archaeology, as a general term for some of the fine red Ancient Roman pottery with glossy surface Slip (ceramics), slips made in sp ...
is an ancient form of decorating ceramics that was first developed in Ancient Greece. * Additives can be worked into the clay body prior to forming, to produce desired effects in the fired wares. Coarse additives such as sand and
grog Grog is a term used for a variety of alcoholic beverages. The word originally referred to rum diluted with water (and later on long sea voyages, also added the juice of Lime juice, limes or Lemon juice, lemons), which Royal Navy, British Vice ...
(fired clay which has been finely ground) are sometimes used to give the final product a required texture. Contrasting coloured clays and grogs are sometimes used to produce patterns in the finished wares. Colourants, usually metal oxides and carbonates, are added singly or in combination to achieve a desired colour. Combustible particles can be mixed with the body or pressed into the surface to produce texture. *
Lithography Lithography () is a planographic method of printing originally based on the miscibility, immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by ...
, also called litho, although the alternative names of transfer print or "''decal''" are also common. These are used to apply designs to articles. The litho comprises three layers: the colour, or image, layer which comprises the decorative design; the cover coat, a clear protective layer, which may incorporate a low-melting glass; and the backing paper on which the design is printed by screen printing or lithography. There are various methods of transferring the design while removing the backing-paper, some of which are suited to machine application. * Banding is the application by hand or by machine of a band of colour to the edge of a plate or cup. Also known as "lining", this operation is often carried out on a potter's wheel. * Agateware is named after its resemblance to the quartz mineral
agate Agate () is a common rock formation, consisting of chalcedony and quartz as its primary components, with a wide variety of colors. Agates are primarily formed within volcanic and metamorphic rocks. The ornamental use of agate was common in A ...
which has bands or layers of colour that are blended together, agatewares are made by blending clays of differing colours together but not mixing them to the extent that they lose their individual identities. The wares have a distinctive veined or mottled appearance. The term "agateware" is used to describe such wares in the United Kingdom; in Japan the term "''neriage''" is used and in China, where such things have been made since at least the
Tang Dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
, they are called "''marbled''" wares. Great care is required in the selection of clays to be used for making agatewares as the clays used must have matching thermal movement characteristics. * Engobe: This is a clay slip, that is used to coat the surface of pottery, usually before firing. Its purpose is often decorative though it can also be used to mask undesirable features in the clay to which it is applied. Engobe slip may be applied by painting or by dipping to provide a uniform, smooth, coating. Engobe has been used by potters from pre-historic times until the present day and is sometimes combined with
sgraffito ''Sgraffito'' (; plural: ''sgraffiti'') is a technique either of wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colours to a moistened surface, or in pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming ve ...
decoration, where a layer of engobe is scratched through to reveal the colour of the underlying clay. With care it is possible to apply a second coat of engobe of a different colour to the first and to incise decoration through the second coat to expose the colour of the underlying coat. Engobes used in this way often contain substantial amounts of
silica Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula , most commonly found in nature as quartz and in various living organisms. In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand. Silica is one ...
, sometimes approaching the composition of a glaze. * Gold: Decoration with gold is used on some high quality ware. Different methods exist for its application, including: # ''Best gold'' – a suspension of gold powder in essential oils mixed with a flux and a mercury salt extended. This can be applied by a painting technique. From the kiln, the decoration is dull and requires burnishing to reveal the full colour # ''Acid Gold'' – a form of gold decoration developed in the early 1860s at the English factory of
Mintons Ltd Mintons was a major company in Staffordshire pottery, "Europe's leading ceramic factory during the Victorian era", an independent business from 1793 to 1968. It was a leader in ceramic design, working in a number of different ceramic bodies, ...
,
Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke) is a city and Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in Staffordshire, England, with an area of . In 2019, the city had an estimated population of 256,375. It is the largest settlement ...
. The glazed surface is etched with diluted
hydrofluoric acid Hydrofluoric acid is a solution of hydrogen fluoride (HF) in water. Solutions of HF are colourless, acidic and highly corrosive. It is used to make most fluorine-containing compounds; examples include the commonly used pharmaceutical antidep ...
prior to application of the gold. The process demands great skill and is used for the decoration only of ware of the highest class. # ''Bright Gold'' – consists of a solution of gold sulphoresinate together with other metal resonates and a flux. The name derives from the appearance of the decoration immediately after removal from the kiln as it requires no burnishing # ''Mussel Gold'' – an old method of gold decoration. It was made by rubbing together gold leaf, sugar and salt, followed by washing to remove solubles


Glazing

Glaze is a glassy coating on pottery, the primary purposes of which are decoration and protection. One important use of glaze is to render porous pottery vessels impermeable to water and other liquids. Glaze may be applied by dusting the unfired composition over the ware or by spraying, dipping, trailing or brushing on a thin
slurry A slurry is a mixture of denser solids suspended in liquid, usually water. The most common use of slurry is as a means of transporting solids or separating minerals, the liquid being a carrier that is pumped on a device such as a centrifugal pu ...
composed of the unfired glaze and water. The colour of a glaze after it has been fired may be significantly different from before firing. To prevent glazed wares sticking to
kiln furniture Kiln furniture are devices and implements inside furnaces used during the heating of manufactured individual pieces, such as pottery or other ceramic or metal components. Materials Commonly used materials are cordierite (up to 1275 °C), mull ...
during firing, either a small part of the object being fired (for example, the foot) is left unglazed or, alternatively, special refractory "''spurs''" are used as supports. These are removed and discarded after the firing. Some specialised glazing techniques include: * Salt-glazing, where
common salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in the form of a natural crystallinity, crystalline mineral is known as rock salt or halite. ...
is introduced to the kiln during the firing process. The high temperatures cause the salt to volatize, depositing it on the surface of the ware to react with the body to form a sodium aluminosilicate glaze. In the 17th and 18th centuries, salt-glazing was used in the manufacture of domestic pottery. Now, except for use by some studio potters, the process is obsolete. The last large-scale application before its demise in the face of environmental clean air restrictions was in the production of salt-glazed sewer-pipes. * Ash glazing – ash from the combustion of plant matter has been used as the flux component of glazes. The source of the ash was generally the combustion waste from the fuelling of kilns although the potential of ash derived from arable crop wastes has been investigated. Ash glazes are of historical interest in the Far East although there are reports of small-scale use in other locations such as the Catawba Valley Pottery in the United States. They are now limited to small numbers of studio potters who value the unpredictability arising from the variable nature of the raw material. *
Underglaze Underglaze is a method of decorating pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Maj ...
decoration (in the manner of many blue and white wares). Underglaze may be applied by brush strokes, air brush, or by pouring the underglaze into the mould, covering the inside, creating a swirling effect, then the mould is filled with slip. * In-glaze decoration * On-glaze decoration * Enamel


History

A great part of the history of pottery is
prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominin The Hominini form a Tribe (biology), taxonomic tribe of the subfamily Homininae ("hominines"). Hominini i ...
, part of past pre-literate cultures. Therefore, much of this history can only be found among the artifacts of
archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, sites, and cultural landscapes ...
. Because pottery is so durable, pottery and shards of pottery survive from millennia at
archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or recorded history, historic or contemporary), and which has been, or may be, investigated using the discipline ...
s, and are typically the most common and important type of artifact to survive. Many prehistoric cultures are named after the pottery that is the easiest way to identify their sites, and archaeologists develop the ability to recognise different types from the chemistry of small shards. Before pottery becomes part of a culture, several conditions must generally be met. * First, there must be usable clay available. Archaeological sites where the earliest pottery was found were near deposits of readily available clay that could be properly shaped and fired. China has large deposits of a variety of clays, which gave them an advantage in early development of fine pottery. Many countries have large deposits of a variety of clays. * Second, it must be possible to heat the pottery to temperatures that will achieve the transformation from raw clay to ceramic. Methods to reliably create fires hot enough to fire pottery did not develop until late in the development of cultures. * Third, the potter must have time available to prepare, shape and fire the clay into pottery. Even after control of fire was achieved, humans did not seem to develop pottery until a sedentary life was achieved. It has been hypothesized that pottery was developed only after humans established agriculture, which led to permanent settlements. However, the oldest known pottery is from the Czech Republic and dates to 28,000 BC, at the height of the ice age, long before the beginnings of agriculture. * Fourth, there must be a sufficient need for pottery in order to justify the resources required for its production.


Early pottery

* Methods of forming: Hand-shaping was the earliest method used to form vessels. This included the combination of pinching and
coiling A coiling or coil is a curve, helix, or spiral used for storing rope or Wire rope, cable in compact and reliable yet easily attainable form. They are often discussed with knots. Mountaineer's coil The mountaineer's coil (also alpine coil, cl ...
. * Firing: The earliest method for firing pottery wares was the use of bonfires
pit fired pottery Pit firing is the oldest known method for the firing of pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and ...
. Firing times might be short but the peak-temperatures achieved in the
fire Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material (the fuel) in the exothermic chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction Product (chemistry), products. At a certain point in the combustion reaction, called the ignition ...
could be high, perhaps in the region of , and were reached very quickly. * Clay: Early potters used whatever clay was available to them in their geographic vicinity. However, the lowest quality common red clay was adequate for low-temperature fires used for the earliest pots. Clays tempered with sand, grit, crushed shell or crushed pottery were often used to make bonfire-fired ceramics because they provided an open-body texture that allowed water and volatile components of the clay to escape freely. The coarser particles in the clay also acted to restrain shrinkage during drying, and hence reduce the risk of cracking. * Form: In the main, early bonfire-fired wares were made with rounded bottoms to avoid sharp angles that might be susceptible to cracking. * Glazing: the earliest pots were not glazed. * The
potter's wheel In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in the shaping (known as throwing) of clay into round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during the process of trimming excess clay from leather-hard dried ware that is stiff but malleable, a ...
was invented in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC (
Ubaid period The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3700 BC) is a prehistory, prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially in 1919 by Henry Hall (Egyptologist) ...
) and revolutionised pottery production. * Moulds were used to a limited extent as early as the 5th and 6th century BC by the
Etruscans The Etruscan civilization () was developed by a people of Etruria in List of ancient peoples of Italy, ancient Italy with a common language and culture who formed a federation of city-states. After conquering adjacent lands, its territory cover ...
and more extensively by the Romans.Cooper (2010) *
Slipcasting Slip casting, or slipcasting, is a ceramic forming techniques, ceramic forming technique for pottery and other ceramics, especially for shapes not easily made on a potter's wheel, wheel. In this method, a liquid clay body slip (ceramics), sl ...
, a popular method for shaping irregular shaped articles. It was first practised, to a limited extent, in China as early as the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
. * Transition to kilns: The earliest intentionally constructed were pit-kilns or trench-kilns—holes dug in the ground and covered with fuel. Holes in the ground provided insulation and resulted in better control over firing.Cooper (2010), p. 16 *
Kilns A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven file:Double oven.jpg, upA double oven file:Four à céramique - Japan Auréa - 2011-0403- P1070446.JPG, A ceramic oven An oven is a tool which is used to expose materials to a ho ...
: Pit fire methods were adequate for creating simple earthenware, but other pottery types needed more sophisticated kilns (see below
kilns A kiln is a thermally insulated chamber, a type of oven file:Double oven.jpg, upA double oven file:Four à céramique - Japan Auréa - 2011-0403- P1070446.JPG, A ceramic oven An oven is a tool which is used to expose materials to a ho ...
).


History by region


Beginnings of pottery

Pottery may well have been discovered independently in various places, probably by accidentally creating it at the bottom of fires on a clay soil. All the earliest vessel forms were pit fired and made by
coiling A coiling or coil is a curve, helix, or spiral used for storing rope or Wire rope, cable in compact and reliable yet easily attainable form. They are often discussed with knots. Mountaineer's coil The mountaineer's coil (also alpine coil, cl ...
, which is a simple technology to learn. The earliest-known ceramic objects are
Gravettian The Gravettian was an archaeological industry of the European Upper Paleolithic that succeeded the Aurignacian circa 33,000 years BP. It is archaeologically the last European culture many consider unified, and had mostly disappeared by &nbs ...
figurines such as those discovered at Dolní Věstonice in the modern-day Czech Republic. The Venus of Dolní Věstonice is a Venus figurine, a statuette of a nude female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BC (Gravettian industry). But there is no evidence of pottery vessels from this period.
Sherd In archaeology, a sherd, or more precisely, potsherd, is commonly a history, historic or prehistory, prehistoric fragment of pottery, although the term is occasionally used to refer to fragments of stone and glass vessels, as well. Occasionally ...
s have been found in China and Japan from a period between 12,000 and perhaps as long as 18,000 years ago. As of 2012, the earliest pottery vessels found anywhere in the world, dating to 20,000 to 19,000 years before the present, was found at Xianrendong Cave in the Jiangxi province of China. Other early pottery vessels include those excavated from the Yuchanyan Cave in southern China, dated from 16,000 BC,"Chinese pottery may be earliest discovered."
Associated Press The Associated Press (AP) is an American Nonprofit organization, non-profit news agency headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1846, it operates as a cooperative, unincorporated association. It produces news reports that are distributed to ...
. 2009-06-01.
and those found in the Amur River basin in the Russian Far East, dated from 14,000 BC.'AMS 14C Age Of The Earliest Pottery From The Russian Far East; 1996–2002.' Derevianko A.P., Kuzmin Y.V., Burr G.S., Jull A.J.T., Kim J.C. Nuclear Instruments And Methods In Physics Research. B223–224 (2004) 735–39. The Odai Yamamoto I site, belonging to the Jōmon period, currently has the oldest pottery in Japan. Excavations in 1998 uncovered
earthenware Earthenware is glazed or unglazed Vitrification#Ceramics, nonvitreous pottery that has normally been fired below . Basic earthenware, often called terracotta, absorbs liquids such as water. However, earthenware can be made impervious to liquids ...

earthenware
fragments which have been dated as early as 14,500 BC. The term "Jōmon" means "cord-marked" in Japanese. This refers to the markings made on the vessels and figures using sticks with cords during their production. Recent research has elucidated how Jōmon pottery was used by its creators. It appears that pottery was independently developed in Sub-Saharan Africa during the 10th millennium BC, with findings dating to at least 9,400 BC from central
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali,, , ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, italics=no, ar, جمهورية مالي, Jumhūriyyāt Mālī is a landlocked country in West Africa. Mali ...
, and in South America during the 9,000s–7,000s BC. The Malian finds date to the same period as similar finds from East Asia – the triangle between Siberia, China and Japan – and are associated in both regions to the same climatic changes (at the end of the ice age new grassland develops, enabling hunter-gatherers to expand their habitat), met independently by both cultures with similar developments: the creation of pottery for the storage of wild cereals (
pearl millet Pearl millet (''Cenchrus americanus'', commonly known as the synonym ''Pennisetum glaucum''; also known as 'Bajra' in Hindi language, Hindi, 'Sajje' in Kannada, 'Kambu' in Tamil language, Tamil, 'Bajeer' in Kumaoni language, Kumaoni and 'Maiwa' ...
), and that of small arrowheads for hunting small game typical of grassland. Alternatively, the creation of pottery in the case of the Incipient Jōmon civilisation could be due to the intensive exploitation of freshwater and marine organisms by late glacial foragers, who started developing ceramic containers for their catch.


East Asia

In Japan, the Jōmon period has a long history of development of Jōmon pottery which was characterized by impressions of rope on the surface of the pottery created by pressing rope into the clay before firing. Glazed Stoneware was being created as early as the 15th century BC in China. A form of
Chinese porcelain Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since Chinese Neolithic, pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. The first pottery was made during the List of Palaeolithic sites in China, ...
became a significant Chinese export from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–906) onwards. Korean potters adopted porcelain as early as the 14th century AD. Japanese porcelain was made in the early 16th century after Shonzui Goradoyu-go brought back the secret of its manufacture from the Chinese kilns at Jingdezhen. In contrast to Europe, the Chinese elite used pottery extensively at table, for religious purposes, and for decoration, and the standards of fine pottery were very high. From the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou. ...
(960–1279) for several centuries elite taste favoured plain-coloured and exquisitely formed pieces; during this period true porcelain was perfected in Ding ware, although it was the only one of the
Five Great Kilns The Five Great Kilns (), also known as Five Famous Kilns, is a generic term for ceramic kilns or wares (in Chinese 窯 yáo can mean either) which produced Chinese ceramics during the Song dynasty (960–1279) that were later held in particularly ...
of the Song period to use it. The traditional Chinese category of high-fired wares includes stoneware types such as
Ru ware Ru ware, Ju ware, or "Ru official ware" () is a famous and extremely rare type of Chinese pottery from the Song dynasty, produced for the imperial court for a brief period around 1100. Fewer than 100 complete pieces survive, though there are ...
,
Longquan celadon Longquan celadon (龍泉青瓷) is a type of green-glazed Chinese ceramic, known in the West as celadon or greenware, produced from about 950 to 1550. The kilns were mostly in Lishui prefecture in southwestern Zhejiang Province in the south of ...
, and Guan ware. Painted wares such as Cizhou ware had a lower status, though they were acceptable for making pillows. The arrival of Chinese
blue and white porcelain "Blue and white pottery" () covers a wide range of white pottery and porcelain decorated underglaze, under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt(II) oxide, cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, originally by brush pa ...
was probably a product of the Mongol
Yuan dynasty The Yuan dynasty (), officially the Great Yuan (; xng, , , literally "Great Yuan State"), was a Mongols, Mongol-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and a successor state to the Mongol Empire after Division of the M ...
(1271–1368) dispersing artists and craftsmen across its large empire. Both the
cobalt Cobalt is a chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol Co and atomic number 27. As with nickel, cobalt is found in the Earth's crust only in a chemically combined form, save for small deposits found in alloys of natural meteoric iron. T ...
stains used for the blue colour, and the style of painted decoration, usually based on plant shapes, were initially borrowed from the Islamic world, which the Mongols had also conquered. At the same time
Jingdezhen porcelain Jingdezhen porcelain () is Chinese porcelain Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since Chinese Neolithic, pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. The first pottery was mad ...
, produced in Imperial factories, took the undisputed leading role in production, which it has retained to the present day. The new elaborately painted style was now favoured at court, and gradually more colours were added. The secret of making such porcelain was sought in the Islamic world and later in Europe when examples were imported from the East. Many attempts were made to imitate it in Italy and France. However it was not produced outside of the Orient until 1709 in Germany.


South Asia

Cord-Impressed style pottery belongs to "Mesolithic" ceramic tradition that developed among Vindhya hunter-gatherers in Central India during the
Mesolithic The Mesolithic ( Greek: μέσος, ''mesos'' 'middle' + λίθος, ''lithos'' 'stone') or Middle Stone Age is the Old World archaeological period between the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term Epipaleolithic is often used synony ...
period. This ceramic style is also found in later Proto-Neolithic phase in nearby regions. This early type of pottery, also found at the site of Lahuradewa, is currently the oldest known pottery tradition in South Asia, dating back to 7,000–6,000 BC. Wheel-made pottery began to be made during the
Mehrgarh Mehrgarh (; ur, ) is a Neolithic archaeological site (dated ) situated on the Kacchi Plain of Balochistan, Pakistan, Balochistan in Pakistan. It is located near the Bolan Pass, to the west of the Indus River and between the modern-day Pakistan ...
Period II (5,500–4,800 BC) and Merhgarh Period III (4,800–3,500 BC), known as the ceramic Neolithic and
chalcolithic The Copper Age, also called the Chalcolithic (; from grc-gre, χαλκός ''khalkós'', "copper" and  ''líthos'', "Rock (geology), stone") or (A)eneolithic (from Latin ''wikt:aeneus, aeneus'' "of copper"), is an list of archaeologi ...
. Pottery, including items known as the ed-Dur vessels, originated in regions of the Saraswati River / Indus River and have been found in a number of sites in the
Indus Civilization The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Indus Civilisation was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 Common Era, BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form 2600 B ...
. Despite an extensive prehistoric record of pottery, including painted wares, little "fine" or luxury pottery was made in the subcontinent in historic times.
Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religions, Indian religion or ''dharma'', a religious and universal order or way of life by which followers abide. As a religion, it is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest, with over 1.2–1.35 billion ...
discourages eating off pottery, which probably largely accounts for this. Most traditional Indian pottery vessels are large pots or jars for storage, or small cups or lamps, often treated as disposable. In contrast there are long traditions of sculpted figures, often rather large, in terracotta. File:Pottery wheel before 1910.jpg, A potter with his pottery wheel,
British Raj The British Raj (; from Hindi ''rāj'': kingdom, realm, state, or empire) was the rule of the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent; * * it is also called Crown rule in India, * * * * or Direct rule in India, * Quote: "Mill, who was himsel ...
(1910) File:CH-NB - Afghanistan, Jstalif (Istalif)- Gebäude - Annemarie Schwarzenbach - SLA-Schwarzenbach-A-5-21-028.jpg, Stacked pottery in Istalif, Afghanistan, a village known for distinctive pottery tradition File:Early Harappan pot - National Museum, New Delhi.jpg, Early Harappan ceramics c. 3000-2800 BCE, at National Museum, New Delhi


Southeast Asia

Pottery in Southeast Asia is as diverse as its ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has their own set of standards when it comes to pottery arts. Potteries are made due to various reasons, such as trade, food and beverage storage, kitchen usage, religious ceremonies, and burial purposes.


West Asia

Around 8000 BC during the
Pre-pottery Neolithic The Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) represents the early Neolithic in the Levantine and upper Mesopotamian region of the Fertile Crescent, dating to  years ago, (10000 – 6500 BCE).Richard, Suzanne ''Near Eastern archaeology'' Eisenbrauns; il ...
period, and before the invention of pottery, several early settlements became experts in crafting beautiful and highly sophisticated containers from stone, using materials such as
alabaster Alabaster is a mineral or rock that is soft, often used for carving, and is processed for plaster powder. Archaeologists and the stone processing industry use the word differently from geologists. The former use it in a wider sense that includes ...
or
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained (phanerite, phaneritic) intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cool ...
, and employing sand to shape and polish. Artisans used the veins in the material to maximum visual effect. Such objects have been found in abundance on the upper
Euphrates river The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia ( ''the land between the rivers'') ...
, in what is today eastern Syria, especially at the site of Bouqras. The earliest history of pottery production in the
Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent ( ar, الهلال الخصيب) is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East, spanning modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, State of Palestine, Palestine and Jordan, together with the northern region of Kuwait, sou ...
starts the
Pottery Neolithic In the Near Eastern archaeology, archaeology of Southwest Asia, the Late Neolithic, also known as the Ceramic Neolithic or Pottery Neolithic, is the final part of the Neolithic period, following on from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic and preceding the ...
and can be divided into four periods, namely: the
Hassuna Tell Hassuna is a Tell (archaeology), tell, or settlement mound, in the Nineveh Province (Iraq), about 35km south-west of Nineveh. It is the type site for the Hassuna culture (early sixth millennium BCE). History of archaeological research Tell ...
period (7000–6500 BC), the Halaf period (6500–5500 BC), the
Ubaid period The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3700 BC) is a prehistory, prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially in 1919 by Henry Hall (Egyptologist) ...
(5500–4000 BC), and the Uruk period (4000–3100 BC). By about 5000 BC pottery-making was becoming widespread across the region, and spreading out from it to neighbouring areas. Pottery making began in the 7th millennium BC. The earliest forms, which were found at the
Hassuna Tell Hassuna is a Tell (archaeology), tell, or settlement mound, in the Nineveh Province (Iraq), about 35km south-west of Nineveh. It is the type site for the Hassuna culture (early sixth millennium BCE). History of archaeological research Tell ...
site, were hand formed from slabs, undecorated, unglazed low-fired pots made from reddish-brown clays. Within the next millennium, wares were decorated with elaborate painted designs and natural forms, incising and burnished. The invention of the
potter's wheel In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in the shaping (known as throwing) of clay into round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during the process of trimming excess clay from leather-hard dried ware that is stiff but malleable, a ...
in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
sometime between 6000 and 4000 BC (
Ubaid period The Ubaid period (c. 6500–3700 BC) is a prehistory, prehistoric period of Mesopotamia. The name derives from Tell al-'Ubaid where the earliest large excavation of Ubaid period material was conducted initially in 1919 by Henry Hall (Egyptologist) ...
) revolutionized pottery production. Newer kiln designs could fire wares to to which enabled new possibilities and new preparation of clays. Production was now carried out by small groups of potters for small cities, rather than individuals making wares for a family. The shapes and range of uses for ceramics and pottery expanded beyond simple vessels to store and carry to specialized cooking utensils, pot stands and rat traps. As the region developed, new organizations and political forms, pottery became more elaborate and varied. Some wares were made using moulds, allowing for increased production for the needs of the growing populations. Glazing was commonly used and pottery was more decorated. In the
Chalcolithic The Copper Age, also called the Chalcolithic (; from grc-gre, χαλκός ''khalkós'', "copper" and  ''líthos'', "Rock (geology), stone") or (A)eneolithic (from Latin ''wikt:aeneus, aeneus'' "of copper"), is an list of archaeologi ...
period in Mesopotamia, Halafian pottery achieved a level of technical competence and sophistication, not seen until the later developments of
Greek pottery Ancient Greek pottery, due to its relative durability, comprises a large part of the archaeological record of ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, exis ...
with Corinthian and Attic ware.


Europe

Europe's oldest pottery, dating from circa 6700 BC, was found on the banks of the
Samara River The Samara ( rus, Сама́ра, p=sɐˈmarə) is a river in Russia and a left-bank tributary of the Volga. It flows into the larger river at the city of Samara. Its largest tributary is the Bolshoy Kinel. It is long, and its drainage basin ...
in the middle
Volga The Volga (; russian: Во́лга, a=Ru-Волга.ogg, p=ˈvoɫɡə) is the List of rivers of Europe#Rivers of Europe by length, longest river in Europe. Situated in Russia, it flows through Central Russia to Southern Russia and into the Cas ...
region of
Russia Russia (, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and North Asia, Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the ...
. These sites are known as the Yelshanka culture. The early inhabitants of Europe developed pottery in the
Linear Pottery culture The Linear Pottery culture (LBK) is a major Horizon (archaeology), archaeological horizon of the European Neolithic period, flourishing . Derived from the German language, German :de:Linearbandkeramische Kultur, ''Linearbandkeramik'', it is ...
slightly later than the Near East, circa 5500–4500 BC. In the ancient Western Mediterranean elaborately painted earthenware reached very high levels of artistic achievement in the Greek world; there are large numbers of survivals from tombs. Minoan pottery was characterized by complex painted decoration with natural themes. The classical Greek culture began to emerge around 1000 BC featuring a variety of well crafted pottery which now included the human form as a decorating motif. The pottery wheel was now in regular use. Although glazing was known to these potters, it was not widely used. Instead, a more porous clay slip was used for decoration. A wide range of shapes for different uses developed early and remained essentially unchanged during Greek history. Fine
Etruscan pottery Etruscan art was produced by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy between the 10th and 1st centuries BC. From around 750 BC it was heavily influenced by Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct character ...
was heavily influenced by Greek pottery and often imported Greek potters and painters.
Ancient Roman pottery Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman Empire and beyond. Monte Testaccio is a huge mound, waste mound in Rome made almost entirely of broken amphorae us ...
made much less use of painting, but used moulded decoration, allowing industrialized production on a huge scale. Much of the so-called red Samian ware of the Early
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity, it included large territorial holdings aro ...
was in fact produced in modern Germany and France, where entrepreneurs established large potteries. Excavations at
Augusta Raurica Augusta Raurica is a Roman Empire, Roman archaeological site and an open-air museum in Switzerland located on the south bank of the Rhine, Rhine river about 20 km east of Basel near the villages of Augst and Kaiseraugst. It is the site of ...
, near Basel, Switzerland, have revealed a pottery production site in use from the 1st to the 4th century AD. Pottery was hardly seen on the tables of elites from
Hellenistic In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...
times until the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...
, and most medieval wares were coarse and utilitarian, as the elites ate off metal vessels. Painted
Hispano-Moresque ware Hispano-Moresque ware is a style of initially Islamic pottery created in Al-Andalus, which continued to be produced under Christian rule in styles blending Islamic and European elements. It was the most elaborate and luxurious pottery being pr ...
from Spain, developing the styles of
Islamic Spain Al-Andalus DIN 31635, translit. ; an, al-Andalus; ast, al-Ándalus; eu, al-Andalus; ber, ⴰⵏⴷⴰⵍⵓⵙ, label=Berber languages, Berber, translit=Andalus; ca, al-Àndalus; gl, al-Andalus; oc, Al Andalús; pt, al-Ândalus; es, ...
, became a luxury for late medieval elites, and was adapted in Italy into ''
maiolica Maiolica is tin-glazed pottery decorated in colours on a white background. Italian maiolica dating from the Italian Renaissance, Renaissance period is the most renowned. When depicting historical and mythical scenes, these works were known as ...
'' in the
Italian Renaissance The Italian Renaissance ( it, Rinascimento ) was a period in History of Italy, Italian history covering the 15th and 16th centuries. The period is known for the initial development of the broader Renaissance culture that spread across Europe an ...
. Both of these were
faience Faience or faïence (; ) is the general English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England. It ...
or
tin-glazed Tin-glazing is the process of giving tin-glazed pottery items a ceramic glaze that is white, glossy and opaque, which is normally applied to red or buff earthenware. Tin-glaze is plain lead glaze with a small amount of tin oxide added.Caiger-Smith, ...
earthenware, and fine faience continued to be made until around 1800 in various countries, especially France, with
Nevers faience The city of Nevers Nevers ( , ; la, Noviodunum, later ''Nevirnum'' and ''Nebirnum'') is the prefecture of the Nièvre Departments of France, department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Regions of France, region in central France. It was th ...
and several other centres. In the 17th century, imports of
Chinese export porcelain Chinese export porcelain includes a wide range of Chinese porcelain that was made (almost) exclusively for export to Europe Europe is a large peninsula conventionally considered a continent in its own right because of its great physical s ...
and its Japanese equivalent raised the market expectations of fine pottery, and European manufacturers eventually learned to make porcelain, often in the form of "artificial" or
soft-paste porcelain Soft-paste porcelain (sometimes simply "soft paste", or "artificial porcelain") is a type of ceramic material in pottery, usually accepted as a type of porcelain. It is weaker than "true" hard-paste porcelain, and does not require either the high ...
, and from the 18th century European porcelain and other wares from a great number of producers became extremely popular, reducing Asian imports.


United Kingdom

The English city of
Stoke-on-Trent Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke) is a city and Unitary authorities of England, unitary authority area in Staffordshire, England, with an area of . In 2019, the city had an estimated population of 256,375. It is the largest settlement ...
is widely known as "The Potteries" because of the large number of pottery factories or, colloquially, "Pot Banks". It was one of the first industrial cities of the modern era where, as early as 1785, two hundred pottery manufacturers employed 20,000 workers.
Josiah Wedgwood Josiah Wedgwood (12 July 1730 – 3 January 1795) was an English Pottery, potter, entrepreneur and abolitionist. Founding the Wedgwood company in 1759, he developed improved pottery bodies by systematic experimentation, and was the leader in t ...
(1730–1795) was the dominant leader. In North Staffordshire hundreds of companies produced all kinds of pottery, from tablewares and decorative pieces to industrial items. The main pottery types of earthenware, stoneware and porcelain were all made in large quantities, and the Staffordshire industry was a major innovator in developing new varieties of ceramic bodies such as
bone china Bone china is a type of ceramic A ceramic is any of the various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing an inorganic, nonmetallic material, such as clay, at a high temperature. Common ex ...
and
jasperware Jasperware, or jasper ware, is a type of pottery first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Usually described as stoneware, it has an unglazed matte Biscuit porcelain, "biscuit" finish and is produced in a number of different colours, of ...
, as well as pioneering
transfer printing Transfer printing is a method of decorating pottery or other materials using an engraved copper or steel plate from which a monochrome print on paper is taken which is then transferred by pressing onto the ceramic piece.John Fleming (art histori ...
and other glazing and decorating techniques. In general Staffordshire was strongest in the middle and low price ranges, though the finest and most expensive types of wares were also made. By the late 18th century North Staffordshire was the largest producer of ceramics in Britain, despite significant centres elsewhere. Large export markets took Staffordshire pottery around the world, especially in the 19th century. Production had begun to decline in the late 19th century, as other countries developed their industries, and declined steeply after World War II. Some production continues in the area, but at a fraction of the levels at the peak of the industry.


Islamic pottery

Early
Islamic pottery Medieval Islamic pottery occupied a geographical position between Chinese ceramics, the unchallenged leaders of Eurasian production, and the pottery of the Byzantine Empire and Europe. For most of the period it can fairly be said to have been b ...
followed the forms of the regions which the Muslims conquered. Eventually, however, there was cross-fertilization between the regions. This was most notable in the Chinese influences on Islamic pottery. Trade between China and Islam took place via the system of trading posts over the lengthy
Silk Road The Silk Road () was a network of Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, it spans from the British Isles a ...
. Islamic nations imported stoneware and later porcelain from China. China imported the minerals for
Cobalt blue Cobalt blue is a blue pigment made by sintering cobalt(II) oxide with aluminium oxide, aluminum(III) oxide (alumina) at 1200 °C. Chemically, cobalt blue pigment is cobalt(II) oxide-aluminium oxide, or cobalt(II) aluminate, CoAl2O4. Cobalt ...
from the Islamic ruled
Persia Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
to decorate their
blue and white porcelain "Blue and white pottery" () covers a wide range of white pottery and porcelain decorated underglaze, under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt(II) oxide, cobalt oxide. The decoration is commonly applied by hand, originally by brush pa ...
, which they then exported to the Islamic world. Likewise, Islamic art contributed to a lasting pottery form identified as Hispano-Moresque in
Andalucia Andalusia (, ; es, Andalucía ) is the southernmost autonomous community in Peninsular Spain. It is the most populous and the second-largest autonomous community in the country. It is officially recognised as a "historical nationality". The ...
(Islamic Spain). Unique Islamic forms were also developed, including
fritware Fritware, also known as stone-paste, is a type of pottery in which frit (ground glass) is added to clay to reduce its fusion temperature. The mixture may include quartz or other siliceous material. An organic compound such as Natural gum, gum o ...
, lusterware and specialized glazes like
tin-glazing Tin-glazing is the process of giving tin-glazed pottery items a ceramic glaze that is white, glossy and opaque, which is normally applied to red or buff earthenware. Tin-glaze is plain lead glaze with a small amount of tin oxide added.Caiger-Smith, ...
, which led to the development of the popular
maiolica Maiolica is tin-glazed pottery decorated in colours on a white background. Italian maiolica dating from the Italian Renaissance, Renaissance period is the most renowned. When depicting historical and mythical scenes, these works were known as ...
. One major emphasis in ceramic development in the Muslim world was the use of
tile Tiles are usually thin, square or rectangular coverings manufactured from hard-wearing material such as ceramic, Rock (geology), stone, metal, baked clay, or even glass. They are generally fixed in place in an array to cover roofs, floors, wa ...
and decorative tilework. File:Thr muze art islam 7.jpg, alt=, Bowl painted on slip under transparent glaze (
polychrome Polychrome is the "practice of decorating architectural elements, sculpture, etc., in a variety of colors." The term is used to refer to certain styles of architecture, pottery or sculpture in multiple colors. Ancient Egypt Colossal stat ...
), 9th or 10th century,
Nishapur Nishapur or officially Romanization of Persian, Romanized as Neyshabur ( fa, ;Or also "نیشاپور" which is closer to its original and historic meaning though it is less commonly used by modern native Persian speakers. In Persian literature, ...
.
National Museum of Iran The National Museum of Iran ( fa, موزهٔ ملی ایران ) is located in Tehran Tehran (; fa, تهران ) is the largest city in Tehran Province and the Capital city, capital of Iran. With a population of around 9 million in the ci ...
. File:Spherical Hanging Ornament, 1575-1585.jpg, ''Spherical Hanging Ornament'', 1575–1585, Ottoman Period.
Brooklyn Museum The Brooklyn Museum is an art museum located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn Brooklyn () is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Kings County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. Ki ...
. File:Mendel II 071 r.jpg, A potter at work, 1605 File:Chess Set MET DP170393.jpg, alt=, Chess set ( Shatrang); Gaming pieces. 12th century,
Nishapur Nishapur or officially Romanization of Persian, Romanized as Neyshabur ( fa, ;Or also "نیشاپور" which is closer to its original and historic meaning though it is less commonly used by modern native Persian speakers. In Persian literature, ...
glazed
fritware Fritware, also known as stone-paste, is a type of pottery in which frit (ground glass) is added to clay to reduce its fusion temperature. The mixture may include quartz or other siliceous material. An organic compound such as Natural gum, gum o ...
.
Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, colloquially "the Met", is the List of largest art museums, largest art museum in the Americas. Its permanent collection contains over two million works, divided among 17 curatorial departments. ...


Americas

Most evidence points to an independent development of pottery in the Native American cultures, with the earliest known dates from Brazil, from 9,500 to 5,000 years ago and 7,000 to 6,000 years ago. Further north in
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in southern North America and most of Central America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica. Withi ...
, dates begin with the Archaic Era (3500–2000 BC), and into the Formative period (2000 BC – AD 200). These cultures did not develop the stoneware, porcelain or glazes found in the Old World.
Maya ceramics Maya ceramics are ceramics produced in the Pre-Columbian In the history of the Americas, the pre-Columbian era spans from the Migration to the New World, original settlement of North and South America in the Upper Paleolithic period through Euro ...
include finely painted vessels, usually beakers, with elaborate scenes with several figures and texts. Several cultures, beginning with the
Olmec The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerican civilization. Following a progressive development in Soconusco, Veracruz, Soconusco, they occupied the tropical lowlands of the modern-day Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It has b ...
, made terracotta sculpture, and sculptural pieces of humans or animals that are also vessels are produced in many places, with
Moche portrait vessel Moche portrait vessels are ceramic vessels featuring highly individualized and naturalistic representations of human faces that are unique to the Moche culture The Moche civilization (; alternatively, the Mochica culture or the Early, Pre- o ...
s among the finest.


Africa

Evidence indicates an independent invention of pottery in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, Swiss archaeologists discovered pieces of some of the oldest pottery in Africa at Ounjougou in Central Mali, dating back to at least 9,400 BC. Excavations in the Bosumpra Cave on the Kwahu Plateau in southeastern Ghana, have revealed well-manufactured pottery decorated with channelling and impressed peigne fileté rigide dating from the early tenth-millennium cal. BC. In later periods, a relationship of the introduction of pot-making in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa with the spread of
Bantu languages The Bantu languages (English: , Proto-Bantu: *bantʊ̀) are a large Language family, family of languages spoken by the Bantu peoples, Bantu people of Central Africa, Central, Southern Africa, Southern, Eastern africa and Southeast Africa, Southea ...
has been long recognized, although the details remain controversial and awaiting further research, and no consensus has been reached.See for a recent discussion of the issues, and links to further literature. Ancient Egyptian pottery begins after 5,000 BC, having spread from the Levant. There were many distinct phases of development in pottery, with very sophisticated wares being produced by the
Naqada III Naqada III is the last phase of the Naqada culture of ancient Prehistoric Egypt, Egyptian prehistory, dating from approximately 3200 to 3000 BC. It is the period during which the process of state formation, which began in Naqada II, became ...
period, c. 3,200 to 3,000 BC. During the early Mediterranean civilizations of the fertile crescent, Egypt developed a non-clay-based ceramic which has come to be called
Egyptian faience Egyptian faience is a sintered-quartz ceramic material from Ancient Egypt. The sintering process "covered he materialwith a true vitreous coating" as the quartz underwent Glass transition, vitrification, creating a bright lustre of various ...
.The non-clay ceramic called
Egyptian faience Egyptian faience is a sintered-quartz ceramic material from Ancient Egypt. The sintering process "covered he materialwith a true vitreous coating" as the quartz underwent Glass transition, vitrification, creating a bright lustre of various ...
should not be confused with
faience Faience or faïence (; ) is the general English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England. It ...
, which is a type of glaze.
A similar type of body is still made in
Jaipur Jaipur (; Hindi Language, Hindi: ''Jayapura''), formerly Jeypore, is the List of state and union territory capitals in India, capital and largest city of the Indian States and union territories of India, state of Rajasthan. , the city had a pop ...
in India. During the
Umayyad Caliphate The Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE; , ; ar, ٱلْخِلَافَة ٱلْأُمَوِيَّة, al-Khilāfah al-ʾUmawīyah) was the second of the four major caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. The caliphate was ruled by the ...
of Islam, Egypt was a link between early centre of Islam in the Near East and Iberia which led to the impressive style of pottery. It is valuable to look into pottery as an archaeological record of potential interaction between peoples. When pottery is placed within the context of linguistic and migratory patterns, it becomes an even more prevalent category of social artifact. As proposed by Olivier P. Gosselain, it is possible to understand ranges of cross-cultural interaction by looking closely at the '' chaîne opératoire'' of ceramic production.See for further discussion and sources. The methods used to produce pottery in early Sub-Saharan Africa are divisible into three categories: techniques visible to the eye (decoration, firing and post-firing techniques), techniques related to the materials (selection or processing of clay, etc.), and techniques of molding or fashioning the clay. These three categories can be used to consider the implications of the reoccurrence of a particular sort of pottery in different areas. Generally, the techniques that are easily visible (the first category of those mentioned above) are thus readily imitated, and may indicate a more distant connection between groups, such as trade in the same market or even relatively close settlements. Techniques that require more studied replication (i.e., the selection of clay and the fashioning of clay) may indicate a closer connection between peoples, as these methods are usually only transmissible between potters and those otherwise directly involved in production. Such a relationship requires the ability of the involved parties to communicate effectively, implying pre-existing norms of contact or a shared language between the two. Thus, the patterns of technical diffusion in pot-making that are visible via archaeological findings also reveal patterns in societal interaction.


Oceania

Polynesia Polynesia () "many" and νῆσος () "island"), to, Polinisia; mi, Porinihia; haw, Polenekia; fj, Polinisia; sm, Polenisia; rar, Porinetia; ty, Pōrīnetia; tvl, Polenisia; tkl, Polenihia (, ) is a subregion of Oceania, made up of ...
,
Melanesia Melanesia (, ) is a subregion of Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It extends from Indonesia's Western New Guinea, New Guinea in the west to Fiji in the east, and includes the Arafura Sea. The region includes the four independent cou ...
and
Micronesia Micronesia (, ) is a subregion of Oceania, consisting of about 2,000 small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with three other island regions: the Philippines to the west, Polynesia to the east, and ...
Pottery has been found in archaeological sites across the islands of Oceania. It is attributed to an ancient archaeological culture called the
Lapita The Lapita culture is the name given to a Neolithic The Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, is an Old World archaeological period and the final division of the Stone Age. It saw the Neolithic Revolution, a wide-ranging set of developmen ...
. Another form of pottery called Plainware is found throughout sites of Oceania. The relationship between Lapita pottery and Plainware is not altogether clear. The
Indigenous Australians Indigenous Australians or Australian First Nations are people with familial heritage from, and membership in, the ethnic groups that lived in Australia before History of Australia (1788–1850), British colonisation. They consist of two distin ...
never developed pottery. After Europeans came to Australia and settled, they found deposits of clay which were analysed by English potters as excellent for making pottery. Less than 20 years later, Europeans came to Australia and began creating pottery. Since then, ceramic manufacturing, mass-produced pottery and studio pottery have flourished in Australia.


Production issues (health and environment)

Although many of the environmental effects of pottery production have existed for millennia, some of these have been amplified with modern technology and scales of production. The principal factors for consideration fall into two categories: (a) effects on workers, and (b) effects on the general environment. The chief risks on worker health include
heavy metal poisoning A toxic heavy metal is any relatively dense metal or metalloid that is noted for its potential toxicity, especially in environmental contexts. The term has particular application to cadmium, Mercury (element), mercury and lead, all of which app ...
, poor
indoor air quality Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality within and around buildings and Nonbuilding structure, structures. IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to Sick Buil ...
, dangerous sound levels and possible
over-illumination Overillumination is the presence of lighting intensity higher than that which is appropriate for a specific activity. Overillumination was commonly ignored between 1950 and 1995, especially in office and retail environments.M.D. Simpson, ''A fl ...
. Historically, "plumbism" (
lead poisoning Lead poisoning, also known as plumbism and saturnism, is a type of metal poisoning caused by lead in the body. The brain is the most sensitive. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, memory problems, infertil ...
) was a significant health concern to those glazing pottery. This was recognised at least as early as the nineteenth century, and the first legislation in the United Kingdom to limit pottery workers' exposure was introduced in 1899. Proper ventilation to guarantee adequate indoor air quality can reduce or eliminate workers' exposure to fine
particulate Particulates – also known as atmospheric aerosol particles, atmospheric particulate matter, particulate matter (PM) or suspended particulate matter (SPM) – are microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspension (chemistry), suspen ...
matter,
carbon monoxide Carbon monoxide (chemical formula CO) is a colorless, poisonous, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom connected by a triple bond. It is the simple ...
, certain
heavy metals file:Osmium crystals.jpg, upright=1.2, Crystals of osmium, a heavy metal nearly twice as dense as lead Heavy metals are generally defined as metals with relatively high density, densities, atomic weights, or atomic numbers. The criteria used, ...
, and crystalline
silica Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula , most commonly found in nature as quartz and in various living organisms. In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand. Silica is one ...
(which can lead to
silicosis Silicosis is a form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust. It is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of Nodule (medicine), nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. It is a type of pneumo ...
). A more recent study at Laney College,
Oakland, California Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. A major West Coast of the United States, West Coast port, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third ...
suggests that all these factors can be controlled in a well-designed workshop environment. The primary environmental concerns include off-site
water pollution Water pollution (or aquatic pollution) is the contamination of Body of water, water bodies, usually as a result of human activities, so that it negatively affects its uses. Water bodies include lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers, reservoirs and gro ...
,
air pollution Air pollution is the contamination of air due to the presence of substances in the atmosphere that are harmful to the health of humans and other living beings, or cause damage to the climate or to materials. There are many different types ...
, disposal of
hazardous materials Dangerous goods, abbreviated DG, are substances that when transported are a risk to health, safety, property or the Natural environment, environment. Certain dangerous goods that pose risks even when not being transported are known as hazardou ...
, and fuel consumption.


See also

* Glossary of pottery terms *
American art pottery American art pottery (sometimes capitalized) refers to aesthetically distinctive hand-made ceramics in earthenware and stoneware from the period 1870-1950s. Ranging from tall vases to tiles, the work features original designs, simplified shapes, an ...
*
Celadon ''Celadon'' () is a term for pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major type ...
*
Ceramics of indigenous peoples of the Americas Native American pottery is an art form with at least a 7500-year history in the Americas. Pottery is fired ceramics with clay as a component. Ceramics are used for utilitarian cooking vessels, serving and storage vessels, pipes, funerary urns, ...
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Chinese ceramics Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since Chinese Neolithic, pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics globally. The first pottery was made during the List of Palaeolithic sites in China, ...
including porcelain *
Delftware Delftware or Delft pottery, also known as Delft Blue ( nl, Delfts blauw) or as delf, is a general term now used for Dutch tin-glazing , tin-glazed earthenware, a form of faience. Most of it is blue and white pottery, and the city of Delft in th ...
* Dipped ware *
Faience Faience or faïence (; ) is the general English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family, with its earliest forms spoken by the inhabitants of early medieval England. It ...
* History of ceramic art * Ironstone ware *
Jasperware Jasperware, or jasper ware, is a type of pottery first developed by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1770s. Usually described as stoneware, it has an unglazed matte Biscuit porcelain, "biscuit" finish and is produced in a number of different colours, of ...
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Korean ceramics Korean ceramic history begins with the oldest earthenware from around 8000 BC. Throughout the history, the Korean peninsula has been home to lively, innovative, and sophisticated art making. Long period of stability have allowed for the establi ...
* Kakiemon pottery * Latvian pottery * Latgalian pottery *
Maiolica Maiolica is tin-glazed pottery decorated in colours on a white background. Italian maiolica dating from the Italian Renaissance, Renaissance period is the most renowned. When depicting historical and mythical scenes, these works were known as ...
of Renaissance Italy *
Majolica In different periods of time and in different countries, the term ''majolica'' has been used for two distinct types of pottery. Firstly, from the mid-15th century onwards, was ''maiolica'', a type of pottery reaching Italy from Spain, Majorca a ...
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Palissy ware Palissy ware is a 19th-century term for ceramics (art), ceramics produced in the style of the famous French potter Bernard Palissy (c. 1510–90), who referred to his own work in the familiar manner as ("in the rustic style"). It is therefore al ...
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Persian pottery Persian pottery or Iranian pottery is the pottery made by the artists of Persia, Persia (Iran) and its history goes back to early Neolithic Age (7th millennium BCE). Agriculture gave rise to the baking of clay, and the making of utensils by th ...
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Sancai ''Sancai'' ()Vainker, 75 is a versatile type of decoration on Chinese pottery Chinese ceramics show a continuous development since Chinese Neolithic, pre-dynastic times and are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and ceramics glob ...
* Sea pottery *
Slipware Slipware is pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major types include earthe ...
* SylvaC *
Victorian majolica Victorian majolica properly refers to two types of majolica made in the second half of the 19th century in Europe and America. Firstly, and best known, there is the mass-produced majolica decorated with coloured lead glazes, made in Britain, Eur ...


Explanatory notes


Citations


General and cited works

* Cooper, Emmanuel, ''10,000 Years of Pottery'', 4th ed., 2010, University of Pennsylvania Press, * Savage, George, ''Pottery Through the Ages'', Penguin, 1959,


Further reading

* ASTM Standard C 242-01 ''Standard Terminology of Ceramic Whitewares and Related Products'' * Ashmore, Wendy & Sharer, Robert J., (2000). ''Discovering Our Past: A Brief Introduction to Archaeology Third Edition''. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company. * Barnett, William & Hoopes, John (Eds.) (1995). ''The Emergence of Pottery''. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. * Childe, V.G., (1951). ''Man Makes Himself''. London: Watts & Co. * Freestone, Ian, Gaimster, David R.M., ''Pottery in the Making: World Ceramic Traditions'', 1997, British Museum Publications, * Rice, Prudence M. (1987). ''Pottery Analysis – A Sourcebook''. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. . * van der Veen, V. (2018). Form Follows Function. A new approach to determining vessel function. ''Internet Archaeology'' 50
Form Follows Function. A new approach to determining vessel function


External links




Stoke-on-Trent Museums – Ceramics Collections Online

Ceramics everywhere
{{Neolithic Chronology Articles containing video clips Ceramic art Types of production