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History of Clay

Middle School Ceramics art class
by

Lindsey Foushee

on 29 January 2017

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Transcript of History of Clay

History of Clay
Clay Around the World
Firing
Trade between China and the Middle East took place through the system of trading posts over the Silk Road, beginning during the Han Dynasty around 130 BC. Islamic nations imported silk, paper, gunpowder, and pottery from China. They exported jewels, carpets, Egyptian glass, and minerals, including Cobalt that decorated the expensive blue and white Chinese porcelain.

The Near-East & Islamic Art
In 2012, a discovery in China uncovered pieces of what is now considered the oldest pottery in the world (20,000 years). Archeologists believe these shards came from pots used for cooking, which did not happen in the Middle East until 2,000-3,000 years later.
China
The first known ceramic piece was made during the Neolithic Period, or the "Stone Age," made as early as 29,000 BC!
Early Ceramics
Vocabulary:
Kiln- a type of oven in which clay objects are fired
Bisque - a clay object that has been shaped, air dried, and fired at high temperature to produce a strong, durable piece ready for decorating
Clay - a natural product of the weathering and decomposition of rocks;
the combination of minerals and water
Fire / Firing - applying high heat for a period of time to promote chemical change and eliminate all water from clay or glaze, causing a permanent state
Slip - a mixture of clay and water used to hold clay pieces together
Score - scratching the clay's surface so slip has a place to go when attaching pieces
The earliest known ceramic object in the world is the "Venus of Dolní Věstonice," from what is now the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe. She is only 4.4 inches tall and 1.7 inches wide!

Many Venus figurines have been found, and are believed to be symbols of fertility.
girlfriend needs to put a top on!
Early shapes were made using hand-building techniques, combining pinching and coiling.
Glazes
About 1500 BC, Chinese artisans began using ash glazes. Ash glazing is the earliest form of glazing; the green/brown color is a result of the wood burned during the firing process. Once the Chinese figured this out, they began using ash as a glaze before firing.
Africa
Separated from Asia, pottery in sub-Saharan African developed independently from China. The earliest pieces date at 9,500 BC from Mali.
Because African tribes rely on oral traditions (storytelling instead of writing) and therefore do not have written histories, pottery is a record of how tribes interacted and traded techniques.
The invention of the potter's wheel in Mesopotamia sometime between 6,000 and 4,000 BC revolutionized pottery production. Potters were able to meet the increasing needs of the world's first cities.
The Americas
Ceramics developed in the Americas much later than in Asia, Africa, and Europe, beginning as late as 3,000 BC.
Coiling is the most common method for making pottery. Like Africa, with no written records, ceramics are an important way to learn about early cultures. Objects made from clay include cooking vessels, serving and storage vessels, pipes, funerary urns, musical instruments, ceremonial items, masks, toys, & sculptures.
For archaeologists, anthropologists and historians the study of pottery can help us learn about past cultures. Clay is an easily accessible material and pottery is durable, so the many cultures that use clay can have fragments survive long after objects made from other materials, like wood or cloth, have decayed.

The study of pottery is helpful for learning about the economic condition and cultural development of the societies that produced or acquired pottery. The study of pottery may also give information about a culture's daily life, religion, social relationships, attitudes towards neighbors, and even the way the culture understood the universe.
Why is this stuff important?
For a pit-fire, a hole is dug and the bottom layered with flammable materials, like dried leaves, twigs, sawdust, and manure. Greenware is placed on top, and covered with more leaves, twigs and dung until it makes a mound. The mound is set on fire until all the fuel has burned away, sometimes taking almost a day. The temperature reaches about 2,000*F.
Early cultures found clay in the ground and must have discovered its qualities by accident, probably discovering some burnt clay in a camp fire. This very basic bonfire-style firing then evolved into the pit-firing.
Right Now:
Draw a timeline about the history of ceramics. By the end of the lecture, you should have 6 dates on your timeline, with WHERE & WHY they are important.
** Remember! **
When using BC & AD, years work just like on a number line-- BC numbers count backwards to get larger, AD counts forwards.
Why Glaze?
Clay is naturally porous (has lots of tiny holes), and does not hold liquids. However, hotter kilns developed in China and Egypt could melt glazes and give bisqueware a smooth, water-tight surface. Now pots hold water!
Why is this an important development?
Mesopotamia & the Middle East
One major ceramic development in the Muslim world was the manufacture of tiles around 10,000 BC. They created geometric patterns on walls, floors, doors, & building facades as decoration.

The first use of functional pottery vessels for storing water and food is thought to be around 9000 or 10,000 BC. Clay bricks were also made around the same time.
Glass was believed to be discovered in Egypt around 8000 BC, when overheating of kilns produced a colored glaze on the pottery. Experts estimate that it was not until 1500 BC that glass was produced independently of ceramics and fashioned into separate items.

Timeline Notes:
1. The oldest known ceramic sculpture
2. Oldest pottery shards in the world
3. 3 major developments in the Middle East
4. Use of ash glazes
5. Earliest known ceramic pieces in Africa
6. Egyptians discovered how to make colored glazes
7. The invention of the potter's wheel
8. Earliest known ceramic pieces in the Americas
Do you have these events marked on your timeline?
http://ceramics.org/learn-about-ceramics/history-of-ceramics
Full transcript