Mason's Handbook: Part One

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Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations

Wednesday September 2111Mediaeval Middle Eastern CeramicsR MasonMasons Handbook Part OneAn Introduction to PotteryPottery cannot corrode or rot and is therefore the most common find on archaeological sitesIt reflects contemporary tastes and cultural ideals and is therefore a widely studies subject in art historyDifferent shapes and decorations were used at different times by different people for different purposesBy studying pottery archaeologists can date and say a great deal about ancient culturesProvides information about technology craft specialization trade industry art diet etcWhat is PotteryClay a naturally occurring finegrained sedimentTo be useful for pottery clay must be made mostly of clay mineralsThere are various types of clay minerals and not all can be fired a high temperaturesClay mineralsThe Koalinite GroupAl2Si2O5OHMontmorilloniteSmectite GroupCa Na HAl Mg Fe Zn 2SiAl 4O10OH2xH2OIllite or claymica GroupKHAl2 Si Al 4O10OH2 xH2OTo turn clay into pottery it must be fired by being made very hot in a fire or kilnClay minerals include water in their atomic structureWhen clay is fired the structure of the minerals is destroyed forever and they become a glassy massthis fixes the pottery in its shape permanentlyThere are 3 main types of firedclay ceramicEarthenware lowfired clay ceramic about 700 degrees celsiusStoneware fired to a higher temperature about 12001300 degrees celsius Porcelain highly fired ceramics about 1300 degrees celsiusAnother type of ceramic body is primarily made of crushed quartzEgyptian and Mesopotamian faience which was generally a mix of quartz and glassStonepaste Islamic world is a mix of quartz glass and clayEuropean softpaste porcelain which is technically derived from stonepasteAn important aspect of firing is the fugacity of the kilnRefers to the amount of oxygen in kilnAn oxidizing environment has oxygenA reducinganaerobic environment has no oxygenTemperClay may be unsuitable for making pottery at firstTherefore clay may be tempered with additives Too fatclay content is too high and clay will shrink AddAplastic inclusions parting agents sand or grog a term archaeologists use for crushed pottery
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