The Historic Significance of Clay pot Usage

The Historic Significance of Clay pot Usage

Clay pot making or pottery is an ancient art form that is as old as mankind. Prevalent in various civilizations, clay pots were invented when early humans transitioned from a nomadic to an agrarian culture.

Clay pots were used not only for cooking & storing purposes but also was one of the earliest forms of artistic and emotional expression.

The rudimentary drawings and illustrations on the pots reflected the social, cultural, and economic conditions of those times. It was also a medium to communicate, share information, before the invention of modern script & language.

Clay pots are generally made up of materials such as clay, terracotta, ceramic, steatite, etc. molding it when wet, and firing it at high temperatures.

Common to many civilizations, its prevalence as an art form or occupation was significant during the prehistoric era. 


Popular Civilizations where Pottery Flourished:


1. Indus Valley Civilization 3500 - 1300 BCE

In India, archeological excavations have found evidence of pottery in the Indus Valley Civilization which dates back approximately between 3300 BC to 1500 BC.

  • Also, known as Harappan Civilization, it was a popular trading center located close to the Indus River. 
  • To store and carry everyday commodities, various kinds of pots and utensils were manufactured and sold.
history of clay pot usage

Initially, clay pots were created by shaping or molding clay repeatedly by hand and allowing it to harden in the sun. This was a slow and cumbersome process.

Later with the invention of the Potter’s Wheel in Mesopotamia approximately around 3000 BC, pot making became faster and easier giving the potter freedom to experiment with new designs & aesthetics.

What are the types of Pottery popular during this age? 

Pottery was of two kinds during this time - Handmade & Wheel-made. Their salient features are as given below:

  • Plain and Painted                                                                    
  • Polished & Unglazed 

Shapes - Cylindrical vessels, goblets, tumblers, basins, flasks, narrow vases, etc. with some of them having a knobby & perforated exterior.


2. Egyptian Civilization 3000 - 1500 BCE

Egyptians who were excellent artisans were one of the earliest to create high-quality pottery, (around 1500 BC) much before they built their awe-inspiring pyramids!

Located close to the Nile river, with an abundance of clay, pottery was but a natural progression to their artistic temperament which also led to trading becoming an important occupation.


vases with lotus motif from ancient eqypt

Egyptian pottery has been well known not only for its functional and decorative purpose but also for its spiritual significance.

Since Egyptians believed in after-life, it was a common practice to bury with the dead, miniature versions of everyday vessels such as bowls and platters for them to use in their ‘journey’ ensuring continued supply of food and drink.


3. Neolithic Age  10000 - 3000 BCE

The dawn of the Neolithic Age which ushered the cultural & technological development of prehistoric humans saw many advancements in the art of pottery.

  • Also called the New Stone Age, this was the period when humans started inventing and manipulating tools for their daily needs, began full-fledged farming, domesticating animals, and started forming permanent settlement communities.

  • The Neolithic Age began at different times for different countries. However, pottery during those times had certain distinguishing features that were common across various countries

Ceramic & painted pottery was the highlight of the Neolithic Age. Clay-based ceramics were used to create containers to store food, water, and for religious purpose.

Post the Neolithic period and subsequently, over the decades pottery became an advanced art with the creation of highly sophisticated artifacts with delicate & intricate designs. People started valuing it more for its aesthetic and decorative qualities, its initial use for domestic purposes began to diminish, though, with the recent trend of ‘healthy cooking’, there has been a revival of sorts of cooking in clay pots.


Timeline of the History of Pottery:


history of pottery

1 comment

  • Amanda Dey

    Thanks for this informative and useful blog.
    Best wishes.

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