Jun 18, 2010

ceramic pottery - Types of Pottery - egyption pottery

The Egyptians made two kinds of pottery--the one, ordinary soft pottery; the other, a coarse, gritty compound, loose in its character and lacking cohesion, sandy, easily crumbled, very white, but always covered with a strong glaze or enamel. This material was chiefly used for small objects, seldom for vases. We found at Thebes, in 1856, a fragment of a vase of this ware (Ill. 9) which must have been nearly a foot in height, which is covered with a thick white stanniferous enamel, and decorated with figures and hieroglyphs in purple. There are smaller vases in our collection, amphora-shaped, of the same material, measuring from four to six inches in height. Cups and bowls were formed of it, on which figures were painted in color generally in black, and also lotus-flowers and other Egyptian emblematic designs. These pictures are usually in outline, rude in execution, much inferior to the work of many Egyptian artists who painted on stone or on papyrus. The beauty of the enamel on these objects has been the envy of potters in modern times. The blue has never been surpassed, if, indeed, it has ever been equalled. Objects three thousand years old retain the splendor of their original color; and this leads to the inference that the variety of the shades of blue found on them is not the result of time, but the original intent of the makers. These shades vary from the most intense bleu-de-roi and pure turquoise to pale-blue tints approaching white. The color is usually remarkably uniform on the object. Several of the rare colors of old Chinese porcelain are thus found in ancient Egyptian enamels. The same enamel was occasionally applied to soft pottery.

Of unglazed pottery Egypt produced several varieties. The most common was the ordinary red, cream-colored, and yellow, sometimes in the later periods, under the Greeks and Romans, polished so as to appear like lustrous pottery. Another variety of pottery found in Egypt has a creamy-white surface resembling pipe-clay, the paste very hard and compact, the surface polished, and presenting almost the appearance of stanniferous enamel not perfectly white. It may be questioned, however, whether this ware was made in Egypt. It is abundant in Cyprus, and it is possible that objects found in Egypt were imported from Cyprus. After the Egyptian conquest of Cyprus, about 1440 B.C., and even at an earlier time, the two countries may have interchanged products.

It is not certain that Egypt ever burned brick. The absence of rain in that country made it unnecessary. Sun-dried brick were used for the construction of houses and walls, and the fact that to the present day thousands of these bricks retain their form and position, and even the stamps of the kings in whose reigns they were made, shows how useless burning would have been. It is supposed by some authorities that the burned brick which are occasionally found are the results of accidental fire. Others suppose that bricks were baked when intended for use in wet places. For ordinary purposes, the Egyptian brick were more masses of sun-dried Nile mud, moulded usually of a large size, sometimes 20 inches long, more commonly smaller; seldom, however, less than 13 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 by 4 1/2; sometimes strengthened by the admixture of cut straw, used as modern plasterers use hair in mortar

The forms of Egyptian pottery were numerous. Vases were made chiefly for use, and not for ornament. The amphora, in Egypt as in all ancient countries the most common and most useful vase, was made in all sizes, from the three-inch oil or perfume holder to the immense jar of three or four feet in height, for holding water, wine, oil, or grain. The pithos (so called by the Greeks), an immense tub, cask, or vase of pottery, was made in Egypt as in all the Oriental countries. It was the household cellar, in which meats and provisions were stored. This was sometimes six feet in diameter, always made of coarse unglazed pottery.

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