Museum of Ancient Inventions: Potter's Wheel

Potter’s Wheel, Egypt, 2400 BCE

The potter’s wheel was widely used by the beginning of the third phase of the Early Bronze Age, about 2400 BCE. Pottery cannot be made by hand modeling or coiling without the potter either turning the pot or moving around it, and, as turning involves the least expenditure of human effort, it would obviously be preferred. The development of the slow, or hand-turned, wheel as an adjunct to pottery manufacture led eventually to the introduction of the kick wheel, rotated by foot. By the 18th Century the wheel was no longer turned by the potter’s foot but by small boys apprenticed to the potter, and since the 19th century the motive power has been mechanical. The first evidence of the potter’s wheel was found in Egyptian paintings. Pottery in Egypt was a skilled craft in the Early Bronze Age. Potters were revered members of society. Perhaps the most skillful of all potters have been the Chinese. Excellent examples of their virtuosity are the double-gourd vases, made from the 16th century onward, which were turned in separate sections and afterward joined together.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Ann Helmold

Well, it’s done. It was certainly an incredible experience. Machining the metal parts for the pedal mechanism and the center shaft, pouring the concrete, grinding the sandstone, and drilling endless holes in the frame was certainly an educational experience. I can’t believe how long it took to do the simplest thing. Working in the machine shop with all sorts of advanced machinery really gave me an intense appreciation for the work of the ancients. If it took me that long to build a potter’s wheel, imagine how long it took the ancients to build one.

The major materials I used were sandstone, concrete, wood, and various chunks of steel that Greg had lying around the shop. I think the project used almost every machine in the shop, but I spent a long time on the milling machine. It can be used as a drill, router, and various and sundry other tools.



Most of my information came from the web. I used a lot of Encyclopedia Britannica information as well as the search engines. Unfortunately, my information came in tiny pieces from varied sources. I did use two books on ancient pottery and civilization. I also got some information from the site

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