Ceramics (from Greek keramike – pottery and keramos – clay) is a common name for any pottery objects made from clay or clay-containing mixtures, baked in the oven or dried in the sun. Ceramics include terracotta, majolica, faience, stoneware, and porcelain. Pottery is an ancient art, in most cultures prior metallurgy or weaving. Porcelain, however, is a much more recent invention, which first appeared in China ca. 600 AD, and in Europe in the 18th century.
The basic material for ceramics is clay. Natural clay is usually mixed with sand and small stones, the remains of decayed plants, and other foreign substances, which must be completely removed for the clay to become usable. Today, as in ancient times, the cleaning of the clay is done by dissolving it with water and settling the solution in a large tub. The mud settles to the bottom and the upper layer of clay and water is pumped out in an adjacent tank. Then the process is repeated, sometimes several times, until you get the right quality material.
The purified clay must be stored wet in an enclosed space until using. A several months’ clay ripening significantly improves its working qualities, allowing the clay to keep the form in the process of product development, while remaining supple and pliable. Fresh clay is often mixed with the old, from the previous mixed batch, it enhances bacterial activity, and appears to improve the quality of the material.
The earliest pottery manufacturing technique, invented ca. 5000 BC, in the early Stone Age, has been modeling the vessel by hand from a lump of clay. Clay is kneaded and extruded to obtain the desired shape. Samples of products made by this ancient technique, which is still used today by some potters, were found in Jordan, Iran and Iraq.
The invention of the potter’s wheel is dated about the end of IV century BC. It has not come into use immediately and some regions have adopted the new technique is much later than others. Among the first was Sumer in southern Mesopotamia, where the wheel come into use around 3250 BC. In Egypt, it had come into use by the end of second dynasty, about 2800 BC, and in Troy the pottery made on a potter’s wheel is dated ca. 2500 BC.
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