How Would a Mesopotamian Pottery Maker Make Pottery?

During the Ancient Mesopotamian period, the manufacture of pottery evolved from crude, handmade objects to commercial pieces produced by the thousands on the first potter's wheel.

  1. Form a pot

    Early earthenware was formed by hand or using a mold, like a basket. Many early pieces were made at home and served functional purposes such as storage or eating. As urban civilizations developed in Mesopotamia, the manufacture of pottery developed as a profession, and the potter's wheel emerged around 4,000 B.C.E. At this time, pottery became an object of trade.

  2. Fire the clay

    Pottery during the Mesopotamian period was fired in a pit or a bonfire. Pit firing dates to almost 30,000 B.C.E. A hole was dug in the ground, and the pottery placed inside. The pit was filled with combustible materials, and then the fire was lit and tended until it died. Once cooled, the fired pot was cleaned.

  3. Decorate the pot

    Many early pieces were undecorated. Pieces formed by hand were typically uneven in shape. Vessels created using a basket had distinctive impressions left from the mold. Depending on the culture, some potters incised lines into the clay while others used simple paints made from charcoal or oxidized ore, which were applied after firing. The professional potters of the later period developed more paints, like cobalt and copper, to decorate the surface.