13. Ancient Manufacturing Techniques and Clay Bodes
Gloria London [+]
There has always been a limited way to make traditional pottery: pinch pots, coils, slabs, paddle and anvil, moulds, turning, and wheel-throwing. Round and flat bases can be made using any of these techniques. Round bottoms often begin flat unless they are made with a mould. Rims are usually finished at an early stage in the work, while bases are completed as the final step. More rim sherds than bases are preserved archaeologically; unfortunately, they offer less information on overall pot manufacture than bases and lower bodies. Clay preparation can involve nothing more than pounding the clay and mixing it with water. At other times, it involved the removal and/or addition of material, known as inclusions, temper, non-plastics, filler, or grits. Most ancient fabrics have clay bodies comprising over 40% inclusions. To create fabrics with a single predominant non-plastic intentionally required effort. Until Classical times, ancient potters in the Levant often used clay as it was found in nature after removing the largest rocks, but to make cooking pots, they preferred a coarse textured clay body with abundant, often calcareous inclusions. Surface treatments varied for ancient and traditional cookware. In the Levant, plain and smooth exteriors predominated, until ribbed surfaces began in the Classical era. Smudging may have been intentional, especially during the Early Bronze Age III. Surface treatments and accessory pieces depend on the raw materials used, the manufacturing process, firing techniques, and cultural preferences. Changes in pyrotechnology alone can end a tradition of handles and spouts. Round bases present ample advantages over flat bases to manufacture, dry, fire, use, heat, and clean. The burnished surface of the earliest and latest pottery manufactured in the southern Levant attests to its suitability for local clays.