The Ancient Art of Pottery

Evidence of pottery making is present in every ancient civilization throughout history.  The tools, ingredients and methods may differ but the creation and use of pottery is something that links all people and their history. All of us have an ancestor that once cooked a meal in a clay pot or traded pottery for another commodity.  During my time spent at The University of Arizona I had the great opportunity to work at The Arizona State Museum in the pottery lab.  There, we did not throw pots or work with a wheel or a kiln. We dug in the desert and sifted through millions of pounds of earth and sand to find pieces of broken pottery, or sherds.  Excavating garbage piles of the people who lived in the desert over 2,000 years ago was no easy task. The sherds were painstakingly washed, numbered, lacquered and catalogued.  A great accomplishment was to re-assemble the pottery that had long ago been tossed aside.  Why go through all the that trouble for trash you ask?  Well, that trash has become very valuable. That trash holds answers to questions that fill in pieces of the puzzle that is history. From the tireless work of archaeologists over the globe we have a really good idea of which pottery was made by which people in history. Ingredients to make the clay help us to know where they were made. Ink and paint colors as well as designs are specific to certain tribes and groups, showing who they were and how they were different from others. From pottery we can learn when a group of people lived in a certain area, how far they travelled from home and who they traded with.

As part of our study of ancient civilizations at The Galileo School we will be learning how to make and decorate pottery as our ancestors once did. The Potter’s Wheel Studio and Art Gallery looks like a great place to start. We will be keeping a record of our progress on the site and sharing photos of our creations -so come back often and check it out!

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