How to Make Prehistoric Pottery

           There is a long time I do not post about pottery making, perhaps because I expend my days writing about that for my dissertation, and sometimes it is just too much clay around. But after finding this video on YouTube I knew I had to stop writing about historical contingency and ceramic ecology and prepare this post. This fantastic video has been published by English Heritage, as part of the “Neolithic Houses” experimental work near Stonehenge. Graham Taylor, the potter of the video, does a great job describing the process of making this groove pot, and there is nothing much I can add. I just added some comments after the video of a couple of things that I find especially interesting. But first enjoy this video:

       One of the things that call my attention first is the processing of raw clay. Many experimental studies skip forward to the throwing/making step, so I those images of the potter “flintknapping” the clay and crushing the temper are just great. Look at how much work takes to transform a bunch of wet and dirty soil to a workable clay. Another interesting decision of the potter is the use of a mat to work the pot around, as some sort of a turntable. In fact, I think you can call it a turntable, and that is an interesting fact, since it indicates that there is circular motion work from the very beginning of pottery making.

          The two techniques used for making the pot are pinching and then slabbing as an up-draft lift. I do not think this is a cooking pot, since flat bottoms are not the most efficient ones, but brewing is for sure a possibility. We must remember that cooking, contrary to general belief, does not exclusively imply “heat” and cold cooking wares must be taken into account. Finally, look at how small the fire is. It is true it is only for one pot, and some clays do not need much temperature. But the interesting thing is that, contrary to general belief, bonfires can last for quite a long time. Remember that heat, not flames, fires the pot, so even if a bonfire does not show any more flames, that does not mean that heat does not remain. The result is a beautiful pot showing firing clouds and these shades of reducing firing on the rim. The bell sound of fired clay tells us everything has gone perfectly well.

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