Guiding Question- How can art be used as technology?
Ceramics, or pottery, is a common term that refers to the method of turning clay material, into something that is hard and waterproof using intense heat. The earliest examples of ceramic artifacts date back to 30 000BC. Since then it has been used and developed across many ancient cultures throughout the world.
Early Stone Age man would fashion animal or human figures out of clay and hardening them in open fires. It is widely believed these objects had had religious significance and would be used in primitive rituals. Stone Age man was survived by hunting and gathering. These figures symbolized the natural world and were believed to have mystical powers that assisted humans in influencing nature and therefore improving opportunities for survival.
During the Neolithic Age, about 10 000 years ago, humans moved away from their nomadic lifestyles and instead built villages and farmed the land. Houses were build using fired clay bricks. At the same time humans needed places to store grain or a means of carrying water. Straw baskets would be the most common way of carrying and storing things, but as methods of making clay pot improved, more durable ceramic containers began replacing straw baskets. Craftsmen would decorate their ceramic pots by scratching or stamping the surface. Later, increasingly complex earthy coloured geometric patterns were painted on as decoration, along with human and animal figures.
Kilns were a very important technological advancement to the manufacturing of ceramics. During the Stone Age period, clay figurines were usually placed in open fires, where they dried hard, but crumbled away over time. The Egyptians, Mesopatamians and the Cretians were among the first to realise the benefits of baking the clay objects in a furnace or kiln. It allowed the craftsman far greater control, far fewer losses and better durability. Early kilns were basically contained fires, the basic difference was that the kiln were designed to create an updraft of super heated air. By 2000 BC this style of kiln was eventually superseded by kilns that had a fire built underneath the kiln chamber, where the pottery where placed.
Around 3000 BC the next major technological improvement in creating ceramic containers came with the development of the turntable. As populations grew so did systems of trade. Settlements grew in size, populations expanded which effected the emergence of new crafts, tools and occupations. The turntable allowed pottery makers turn their pots around more easily, which made the coil method far more efficient. With the wheel new shapes and decorations would come about.
In 1500BC attempts to apply basic form of glace were attepted. The earliest experiences with glaze would have occurred by accident, when minerals in the clay would react to firing. It would take thousands of years for humans to refine the technique of glazing so that it could be mixed and poured and brushed onto clay.
Some good websites to use for more information:
Learn About Ceramics: History of Ceramics http://ceramics.org/learn-about-ceramics/history-of-ceramics
Index Page – Ceramic History Tutorials for Potters http://www.ceramicstudies.me.uk/index.html
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/