Pottery; art of making clay pots.

Potteries . The term is used to designate ceramics , pottery and other objects made of hardened clay for cooking in the oven , which are generally of primitive order or popular character. The potter molds the clay on a lathe with his hands (whose origin dates back to 4,000 A.C.), which consists of a flat disk that rotates horizontally on a pivot.


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  • 1 Origins
  • 2 History
    • 1 Iberian Peninsula
    • 2 Tarteous
    • 3 Talayotic culture
    • 4 Greek pottery
    • 5 Iberian ceramics
    • 6 Roman Hispania
  • 3 Uses and techniques of pottery
    • 1 Uses
    • 2 Techniques
      • 2.1 Modeling techniques
      • 2.2 Completion and decoration techniques
    • 4 Sources


The origins of pottery are found more than 10,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Era, where the livelihoods of the people focused on the cultivation of the land. However, the oldest vestiges of the pottery are found in Jomon pottery from Japan about 12,000 years ago. In Latin America , specifically in Peru , they have found ancient pottery objects, the Kotosh-Huayrajirca, dating from about the year 1850 before Christ . These Kotosh vessels, which were painted red and yellow, not only fulfilled the container role, but also served as decorative objects, and were often used in sacred rituals.

The first specialized craftsmen appeared in Mesopotamia , who invented the tools to work the clay better, such as the potter’s wheel and the oven to bake it. Also in Greece as in the Balkans, the influence of the Anatolian culture can be seen in the vessels shaped like a tulip and with a slip, red and white. In Greece the pieces began to be decorated with geometric motifs, which were the most common details along with reproductions of plants and everyday scenes, which were done imitating the art of sculpture.

Estrabón and Plinio attributed the invention of the potter’s wheel to the Scythian Anacarsis who died about 550 BC. C. However, Homer already speaks of her in his works and it is known that the father of Greek poetry preceded Solon’s disciple in several centuries. Tuscans, Porsena time, worked so well in this art artifacts were paid a higher price in times of Augusto that these silver and gold.

In Mediterranean Europe , the oldest pieces are probably those found in the Camprafaud (Lenguadoc) and Verdelpino (Cuenca), pieces dated to the 6th millennium; They do not present any type of decoration. There are also pieces of the III millennium found in Catalonia , Provence, Corsica and Dalmatia; in this case, its decoration is based on printing with seashells, a technique called «montserratin» for its great abundance in the Montserrat massif and which is also known as cardial ceramics.

With the archaeological findings in Upper Egypt , in the Naqada I phase, they suggest that agriculture was practiced from 4500 to 3500 BC . The dead were also buried in tombs, where the use of funeral trousseau was frequent, among which it was normal to find red terracotta vessels with white-painted motifs; the predominant decorations were those of the geometric type, such as triangles , semicircles and spikes. Around 4000 a. C. in the town of Badari pottery vessels of fine and polished walls and approximately 3600a were manufactured. C. large numbers of painted objects have been found, with animal figures and also with scenes of rowing boats.

In the same Neolithic period, domestic pottery appeared in small towns such as the Hacilar site (western Turkey ), these pieces were reduced in low temperature cooked vessels and decorated with smooth stripes painted with non-ferrous white clay. The pottery groups found in the Gumelnitsa, Salcutsa deposits in Romania and Tripole and Cucateni in Ukraine in the fourth millennium have shapes with convex profile at the top and concave at the bottom, the decoration was geometric.

In the initial period of the Bronze Age most of the vessels are made, in the Mycenaean civilization, by hand without the help of any potter’s wheel, which was introduced at the end of this era, thereby achieving a better regularity in the production. Almost all the pieces are polished with a tool that leaves some marks, the primitive paint was made with liquid clay and the engraved lines were filled with another white clay. In Crete a baking technique was produced that produced a finishing of the pieces with splashes in red and black. The jugs with spout are common during Cycladic style and usually made with a matte painting.

In American antiquity, most of its towns were agricultural and, therefore, sedentary, which caused large quantities of household utensils to be produced for culinary or storage use. Although different clays were used depending on the territory where they were manufactured, the open oven was the only one known throughout indigenous America . The technique of realization was, in general, by hand, without the help of a lathe, and the mold was used according to the time and culture. The forms are similar, although with certain peculiarities, in those of MexicoFor example, where small bowls were also used, these had legs and the bottom grated with incisions that were used to grind chili and other condiments. Funeral urns were also held, especially in the South American territory .


Iberian Peninsula

The techniques were transmitted slowly from the Middle East to Western Europe, and also to the Iberian Peninsula , with a lag of approximately two thousand years. This process evolved according to a number of factors:

  • The natural and climatic environment of the place: the geological factor as the basis of the raw material was necessary to obtain the primary material, the clay , and the existence of trees was also necessary to obtain the firewood that was used in the subsequent baking in ovens . The weather was an important factor, since, for example, in places like Siberia or Patagonia , pottery was not produced. Also in the Iberian Peninsula there are large lags between regions of the coast with those of the Plateau, the Cantabrian Sea or the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands. In some areas the progress and evolution was constant and in others the same system and technique lasted for more years. It is also known that during the winter months you did not get to work because of the cold.
  • Cultural dynamics: another factor for technology to evolve is social and cultural circumstances. A concentration of power like the one that happened in the great civilizations of antiquity drives the need to elaborate luxury objects for palaces and religious cults, as well as crockery, utensils for storing food and drinks. The influence of other more powerful peoples such as the Phoenicians , Greeks , Arabs and Romans , introduced their style and the forms of the vessels to peoples that remained under their domain.
  • The increase in demography and its needs: it is natural that when there is a more rapid demographic increase , functional needs increase, it is necessary for products to be transported and stored, as it has been shown to have happened at a time like the Neolithic.

According to the latest dates, the most primitive ceramics in this area are considered to be those of the cardial type, such as those of the deposits of the Cova de l’Or (4770 BC) in Beniarrés, and those of Las Cenizas (4670 -4160 BC) in Aitana of the Valencian Community. Other dates obtained date back to the 6th millennium, such as those found in the Fosca Cave of Ares del Maestrazgo in Castellón, the Big Coat of the Grajos de Cieza in Murcia, the Cave of the bats of Albuñol and the Birth of Pontones in Granada.

Towards 2000 a. C., groups of eastern emigrants scattered throughout the Iberian Peninsula from the southern coasts inland, developing the Almeria culture, which gave rise to the culture of the bell-shaped vessel that would later spread to France and Germany.A little later, around 1700 a. C., the culture of El Argar appeared, to the south of the Iberian Peninsula, where burials have been found in jars located in the subsoil of the houses, with lots of objects, among them, with a large amount of pottery. The jars are for individual characters, without any kind of ornamentation, in many cases burnished and with dimensions of one meter high by 70-80 cm in diameter, the largest were found in the region of Murcia. It is observed that when the deceased, as a consequence of his size, did not fit, two pitchers were used opposite by both mouths. Various types of vessels are found in these grave goods: those of «tulip», with a hemispherical base and conical upper part, and «cups», with a low foot although some are standing tall,

Between 1300 and 750 a. C. the so-called Culture of the Urns Fields is produced. The rite of the incineration is introduced in the peninsula through the Pyrenees towards the northeast, in the Lleida valleys of the Segre and Cinca rivers; the objects bear a great similarity with those of the lower Aragon and the Ebro Valley. The reference ceramics are the “corrugated”.

One of the most studied necropolis is that of La Punta del Pi in Puerto de la Selva, which contains some seventy burials; in the necropolis of Espolla more than two hundred urns have been found. The urns were placed in the center of the pit and have a dimension of 25 to 30 centimeters, most of them with a ceramic lid and decorated with stripes of grooved grooves, hence the name of ribbed. The incineration spread throughout the rest of the peninsula, as can be seen in the necropolis of the Peña Negra de Crevillente, or in the Central Plateau the findings of Las Cogotas de Cardeñosa in Ávila and La Osera de Chamartín in Ávila, with more of two thousand burials, where many of its vessels are inlaid with white clay that form decorations. In AndalusiaWestern type of urns have a dotted decoration while in the eastern part they are smooth and burnished. Black pottery is found throughout the peninsula.


At the beginning of the Iron Age , ceramics are added polychrome paints, varnishes and double chamber furnaces are used. The tableware presents a variety of forms and decorations that have been adopted by local artisans, based on the contributions made by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. The culture of the Tartessos is located between the cities of Huelva, Cádiz and Seville and the entire southwest region of Andalusia; It covers a period that goes from the year 1000 a. C. until 535 a. C., year of the Battle of Alalia .

The most obvious sign in terms of ceramics is the potter’s modeling and the double chamber oven. The decoration is that of the Carabolo type, that is, with the geometric influence of Phoenician and Greek imitation and the finishes of the pieces with handles, outward edges and flat base, details that characterize the production of western Andalusia. In Carmona there were vessels decorated with oriental influences, probably, they were destined as offerings to the gods, and realistic figures of faucets, oxen and fantastic birds appear.

Talayotic culture

The Balearic Islands accompanying the cyclopean architecture of talayots, navetas and taulas, present a specific culture where remains of ceramics are found, which is divided into two phases: the first between 1400 a. C. and 700 a. C., and the second between 700 and 123 a. C. already at the time of the Roman invasion. Talayotic pottery comes mainly from the funerary sites where several types of vessels, mostly small, have been found that have a conical shape, with handles, cups, cups, pots and vases with two handles.

The embodiment is coarse, with the warp system and a rustic texture , which is a consequence of the clay used that contains a large amount of quartz . This Talayotic culture only occurred in the islands of Mallorca and Menorca. Later, pottery mimics the Punic-Carthaginian forms that were produced from the 3rd century BC . C. and until the 1st century BC. C. Samples of this type of pottery are found in the necropolis of Puig des Molins on the Island of Ibiza.

Greek pottery

The Greeks established their trade with the Iberian population between 600-550 a. C., especially with serial dishes. In general, these pieces were produced for large consumption, and presented a simple decoration, which shows that the economy of the peninsula was not very good compared to that of the Etruscans who did buy true works of art in terms of ceramics Greek In this peninsular import the Kílix stand out, with a size between 10-15 centimeters in diameter and with a base of about 10 centimeters, most of these pieces have been found in Valenciaand southeast of the peninsula. This vessel, together with the craters, are the most reproduced pieces by the Iberian potters along with small asko-type jugs. The Greek vessels found in Ampurias represent more than seventy-five percent of the total vessels found in Spain.

For more than five centuries, the Greeks, Celts, Iberians and Carthaginians are juxtaposed throughout the peninsula. The differences between the various regions are evident and remain until the Contemporary Age. The pottery evolves from the arrival of newcomers who settle in the territory and teach new artisanal techniques, as well as new habits in agriculture and culinary culture.

Iberian ceramics

The Greeks were those who called the word Iberia the western shores of the Mediterranean and, therefore, the Iberians were its inhabitants. According to archaeological excavations the area comprised from Narbonne to the high valley of the Guadalquivir. The archeology groups pottery production in five areas: Murcia, Valencia , Aragon, Catalonia (the south of France ), and a large part of Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha.

Between the 6th centuries a. C. and V a. C. there is a concentration of settlements. New paintings are created for the decoration of the vessels, works in which natural lands are applied based on mineral oxides , the presence of iron provides orange and reddish colors to the pieces. The material of the brushes is animal hair, especially the goat’s beard . The decorations range from simple geometric bands to floral patterns, to zoomorphic figures of horses, bulls, fish or dogs, and anthropomorphic, with ladies and warriors as characters. In the Iberian potteries, the same author of the vessel was the one who also painted the piece, unlike the Greek potters who had painters to make the decorations of the handicraft pieces.

Roman Hispania

When Hispania falls under the power of Rome , the potter’s trade experiences a great development. Not only large quantities of ceramics reach the peninsula, but also operators who carry and implement their technique and knowledge. From the first century a. C., coming from Magna Grecia , the first fine dishes and brightly colored glasses are introduced throughout the territory, pieces that are copied in all artisan workshops. Highlights include the works of black varnish and red varnish, with thin walls and glazed roof, and the most abundant types are amphorae, skylights and crockery. The dishes are made in various modalities but terra sigillata is preferred and used to be done with a relief decoration, with red galba. The production centers on the peninsula were in Teruel, Granada , Andújar, Linares Solsona, Mérida and La Rioja.

Uses and techniques of pottery


With a lot of trade and creativity, the artisan gives life to innumerable objects and containers, both for decoration and for daily and religious use.

  • Construction elements. It also includes the glazed tiles that decorate the Andalusian houses and other parts of Spain. They are also pottery bricks, clay tiles without enamel (Catalan tile) manufactured industrially. It is also called pottery to objects made with clay and subsequently cooked only once. Normally it is applied to the pieces made without enamel or with varnish applied in a single firing and especially to its destination for domestic use.
  • Pipes. Another application of pottery is the production of water pipes: {{quote | Ceramic pipes have the following advantages: first, in terms of work, because if any damage occurs, anyone can repair them, and second, because the water is much healthier conducted by ceramic pipes than lead (…) And on the other hand, the taste of what has happened through ceramic pipes is better: so that everyone, despite having their tables well provided Silverware, however, adopt ceramic dishes to drink water, because they give better flavor.
  • Pots to drink: among the oldest, the bowl is probably the first. As for the botijo, it came to replace other containers such as vases, canteens or field barrels and porrones.
  • Cookingvessels : mainly used to store food and store cereals , such as: jars for olives or salted pork, jugs for water, wine or oil, cereal bins, casseroles, pots, pots, [ Mortar (utensil) | [mortars]], honeys of all measures. The jug was the most common and is the one that has a maximum size of 45-50 centimeters, from here they are the jars that arrived, to reach five meters in height.
  • Table vessels: in the past, it was not customary to manufacture the complete tableware as it is used today, but instead consisted of several pieces, such as plates , bowls, bowls, glasses and cups .
  • Pots for animals: drinking troughs and feeders for chickens, pigeons, etc. There are also feeders for pigs.

There are also toys , which were already made since ancient times. There are collections of pitos, flutes , zambombas and nativity figures. Also the pieces that were to reproduce in miniature all the kitchen pieces . Another very typical piece in mud is the piggy bank. Musical instruments also have their representation in pottery, like all kinds of popular flutes, the horn, the ocarina, which although the most complete usually has eight holes, the most common made by potters usually has one or two, which is also They use as a hunting claim.


Modeling techniques

There are three basic categories:

  • Hand modeling: the manual techniques are the most primitive, where the pieces are built by stretching the dough into rolls, plates or clay balls, usually joined by the preparation of liquid clay called slip, once the piece is finished, the surface is smoothed With the same hand moistened. Never two pieces of ceramics worked manually will be exactly the same, so these techniques are not the most appropriate to make sets of identical pieces, such as kitchenware, coffee sets, liquor, etc. This technique allows the potter to use his imagination and create different artistic pieces. Hand modeling was a technique used by primitive peoples and there are still many artisans who work wonderfully, such as the potters of the Pueblo Indians, the tribes ofCentral and southern AfricaAustrian aborigines , Japan and all of East Asia. In Spain we can find areas where these types of vessels are made in the traditional way, as in Galicia , Asturias and the upper Aragon.
  • Lathe modeling:

Modeling potter’s wheel.

it is very common that the pieces made around are finished manually. The ceramic lathe is the most used technique for the creation of pieces in series. At present it is also used to make unique or artistic pieces. This method has been used since 5000 a. C. in Ancient Egypt , the Middle East and Asia. In the Iberian Peninsula it is believed that it arrived between the 5th and 4th centuries BC. C. and in a generalized form from the third century BC. C. To work with it, a clay ball is placed on the wheel of the lathe, which is driven by the foot or hand of the potter who spins it. The wheel spins rapidly while the clay is pressed in a certain way so that it acquires the desired shape. Working with lathe requires great technical skill, but a skilled potter can produce many almost identical pieces in a short time. Currently, the electric winch that requires less effort to its nature is used more, the works by using lathe are almost exclusively pieces with radial symmetry with respect to a vertical axis. These pieces can be decorated by creating different textures on their surface in order to make them visually more interesting. Many times, the pieces created on the lathe are modified manually, adding handles, covers, feet, spikes and other functional aspects.

  • Modeling when emptyingor using mold : the technique of emptying or mold is probably the most appropriate for mass production (industrial). The liquid clay is poured into a plaster cast which allows a slight hardening. Once the mold absorbs most of the water from the clay layer that is in contact with the mold, the remaining clay is poured out of the mold and the piece is allowed to dry. Finally the piece is taken out of the mold, the imperfections that it may have are corrected and it is allowed to dry in the open air.

Completion and decoration techniques

Formerly they decorated the vessels by means of additional works practiced in their surface; A great advance was the decoration with cane, then the polish and finally the glaze.

Ceramic additives can be used to color the clay, prior to modeling. Several additives can also be added to give it a more rustic look. The use of sand and other materials give the final product a finish with varied textures. You can also mix combustible particles together with the clay, or press the surface, to obtain different textures.

You can also create interesting visual effects by using clays of different color. The different pigmentation clays are lightly kneaded in the same ball, before starting the modeling of the piece. Although generally any clay can be used in this process, the different drying and expansion rates during cooking make it usual to use only a clear ceramic paste, adding dye to a part of it. You can also make an analogy with the marquetry, pressing small blocks of colored clay together.

The burnishing, like the technique of the same name with which the metal is worked, requires rubbing the surface of the piece against another polished surface (usually using steel or stones) until smoothing, polishing and polishing the clay. The finer clays are more polished and shiny than the rough ones, and also allow a better drying of the piece before burnishing it, although this increases the risk of cracks. To achieve a more finished surface, a thin layer of slip can be applied over the semi-dry clay.

Finally, the clay can be painted with different kinds of enamels . The engobes are generally applied when the piece is raw, in a “leather” state. It is usual that the pieces decorated with engobe only pass through the ceramic oven once. Both the ceramic glazes and the calcines that give a vitreous finish need that the pieces have once passed through the oven before being applied, and a second time to fix them to the ceramic, although some potters make three or more baked, depending on the Results you are looking for.

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