Harappian sealer, 2500-2000 BC

Palaeolithic Pottery

Pottery found in the Japanese islands has been dated, by uncalibrated radiocarbon dating, to around the 11th millennium BC, in the Japanese Palaeolithic at the beginning of the Jomon period. This is the oldest known pottery. In Europe, burnt clay was already known in the late Palaeolithic…
Neolithic Pottery, 4000 BCNational Museum of Switzerland

Neolithic pottery

In Palestine, Syria and south-eastern Turkey, the earliest finds of clay pots date from Neolithic times, around the 8th millennium BC (black burnished ware). Before that, clay had been used to make statuettes of humans and animals that were sometimes burned as well. In the preceding…
Egyptian pottery, 1400 BC

Pottery in Egypt

Pottery was one of the earliest art forms undertaken by the ancient Egyptians. Pieces from the Predynastic period (5000 bc-3000 bc) are decorated with ostriches, boats, and geometrical designs. In the 5th millennium bc Egyptian potters made graceful, thin, dark, highly polished ware…
Funeral roman pottery, 200-100 BC, Narbona

The potter´s wheel: 3000 BC

When a pot is built up from the base by hand, it is impossible that it should be perfectly round. The solution to this problem ia the potter’s wheel, which has been a crucial factor in the history of ceramics. It is not known when or where the potter’s wheel is introduced. Indeed…
White funerary lekythos, circa 410 BC, The National Archeological Museum, Athens

Ceramics in Greece

The fashioning and painting of ceramics was a major art in classical Greece. Native clay was shaped easily on the wheel, and each distinct form had a name and a specific function in Greek society and ceremonial. The amphora was a tall, two-handled storage vessel for wine, corn, oil,…
Catal Hüyük, 6250-5400 BC, Turkey

Iran and Turkey

The Seljuk dynasty that ruled Iran, Iraq, Asia Minor, and Syria in the 12th and 13th centuries found substitutes for porcelain, and the Iranian cities of Rayy and Kāshān became centers for this white ware. Another fine Seljuk type was Mina’i ware, an enamel-overglaze pottery that,…
Soldiers from the Terracotta Army, interred by 210 BC, Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC)

China pottery

In Neolithic China, pottery was made by coil building and then beating the shapes with a paddle; toward the end of the period (2nd millennium bc) vessels were begun using the handbuilt technique, then finished on a wheel. At Gansu, in northwestern China, vessels from the Pan-shan…
Pottery of the Gaya confederacy

Korea - Korean potters

Chinese pottery and porcelain always exerted a strong influence in Korea, but Korean potters introduced subtle variations on Chinese models. Gray stoneware, found in tombs, was typical of the Silla dynasty (4th to 10th century ad). Song-influenced celadons characterize pottery of…
Haniwa, 600 AD, Japan

Japanese pottery

At the beginning of the Edo period, kaolin was discovered near Arita, in northern Kyūshū, which is still a major pottery center. This discovery enabled Japanese potters to make their own hard, pure white porcelain. One type, Imari ware (named for its port of export), was so popular…
Masks from Lydenburg, 500 AD, South African Museum

South America

Pottery from about 3200 bc has been found at Ecuadorian sites, but the foremost styles appeared in Peru. There, the Chavín style (which reached its height from about 800 bc to about 400 bc), with its jaguar motifs, was succeeded in the Classic period (1st millennium ad) by one of…
Templo Mayor, Eagle´s knight circa 1500National Institute of Anthropology and History, Mexico

Middle America

The Maya of pre-Columbian America depended on maize for their subsistence. The earliest domestic Mexican ceramics date from the Formative period (1500-1000 bc) in the Valley of Mexico. On the Gulf coast the Olmec culture produced hollow, naturalistic figurines. During the Classic…

North America

In the Mississippi Valley the Mound Builders of the 1st millennium bc produced painted, modeled, and incised ware. In the Southwest, fine pottery was made by the ancestors of the Pueblo peoples - notably the red-on-buff ware (ad600?-900?) of the Hohokam and the polychrome ware (1300…