Museum of Ancient Inventions: Pottery

Earth-fired Pottery (fragment), worldwide, 5000 BCE

Pottery is an ancient craft that developed all over the world. No one knows when or how the first clay pot was made or who made it. A common guess is that people noticed that certain types of clay baked hard along the sides of their fire pits, and this clay was water and fire resistant.

The first pots were probably made for cooking. Cone-shaped cooking pots can be stuck in the coals in such a way that the heat from the coals warms the contents evenly.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Christine Hanna ’99 and Amy Mays ’00

Our project was to make pots using ancient forms and methods. We got information from many books and web sites, including some personal correspondence with experienced potters. First we dug clay from under an uprooted tree near Paradise Pond and used grog and water to make it workable. We then pinched pots in shapes known to have been made by ancient people, including cooking pots, water jugs, and bottles. We dug a pit three and a half feet deep, lined it in wood chip, filled the pots and the pit with sawdust, and lighted a fire on top. We let the fire burn strong for four hours and then let it go to coal for another four hours, while the heat from the fire caused the sawdust to smolder and bake the pots at an even temperature. Unfortunately, we did not realize that our pit had hit the unusually high water table and our pots, except for one rim, were actually sitting in a bath of boiling water. Post-firing, our pots were the consistency of butter, and the firing was a failure. We are certain that this method would have produced well-fired pots if we wouldn’t have sprung a leak because the rim turned out quite nicely.


Science Topics
Inventions & Scientists
Social Studies Topics
Ancient History
K-6, Middle School, High School
Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade, 9th Grade, 10th Grade, 11th Grade, 12th Grade

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