Terracotta is a porous clay of a reddish brown color that is used as a medium for building materials and sculptures. Once the clay is handled in its desired form, it is dried and then heated in an oven or on a burning material. In reality, the name “terracotta” comes from the Italian language and means “terra cotta”. This material is also called “terracotta”. Its surprising color is caused by the reaction between the high iron content of the clay and the oxygen in the air. The final cooked product can be glazed or unglazed, even if only glazed terracotta is waterproof. Terracotta has been used throughout history and can be found in countries around the world.
History of terracotta
As mentioned, terracotta has been used throughout history. Some of the earliest examples date back to 24,000 BC, during the prehistoric era, and provided valuable information about life during the Paleolithic era. It is interesting to note that the ancient terracotta was modeled in small statuettes rather than in more utilitarian pieces, indicating that prehistoric cultures valued some form of art. Most of these early terracotta forms were probably left in the sun, rather than heated in ovens or directly on the fire.
Archaeologists have discovered a number of earthenware pieces around the world and each has given important information about historical cultures. In Pakistan, for example, researchers have discovered figures of terracotta women dating back to 3000 BC and 1500 BC. This discovery led academics to conclude that society worshiped goddesses and perhaps focused their spiritual attention on fertility. The ancient Roman empire also used terracotta, using it to create artistic reliefs (a three-dimensional piece in which the subjects are lifted from the background). Before the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas, terracotta was the main medium for pots, pottery and sculptures.
In addition to art and pots, terracotta was also used to create entire buildings. In addition, it was used to create tiles and hydraulic lines.
Well-known examples of terracotta
Some terracotta artifacts are so intricate or of such cultural importance that they have become famous throughout the world. One of the best examples is the Terracotta Army, located in the Chinese province of Shaanxi. The site is home to over 8,000 terracotta soldiers with numerous horses and carts. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, commissioned work to protect his burial site and to go with him to the afterlife.
Another outstanding example of terracotta is the Bell Edison Telephone Building, located in Birmingham, England. This building has an extremely detailed exterior, with balconies and arches carved above the second floor windows. It stands out from the other buildings in the neighborhood thanks to its unique terracotta color. This material has also been appreciated by construction companies in the past for its fire protection features, particularly in the American city of Chicago after the Chicago Fire of 1871.