Pottery is the earliest man made material.
Objects made from clay that have been fashioned into a desired shape, dried, and either fired or baked to fix their form, pottery is one of the most common types of items found by archaeologists during excavations, with the unique potential of providing valuable information about our ancient history.
In fact, pottery can even be used to date archaeological sites. Especially important at sites where written records cannot offer chronological references, either because they do not exist or because they remain undeciphered.
A famous example is on the island of Crete, where Arthur Evans was able to date the excavation of the Palace of Knossos based on Egyptian artifacts that were found there, including pottery, allowing the researchers to extend the Egyptian chronology into Crete.
This is another important aspect of pottery in antiquity: it can provide evidence of trade and exchange networks. During the excavations on Crete, Evans also proved trade and cultural links between Crete and Egypt on the basis that not only were Egyptian artifacts found in Crete but Cretan pottery was then identified in Egypt as well.
Pottery can be analysed on the basis of several features; shape, type of surface, the colours, drawing patterns, and decorative styles. All these elements, studied in detail for each particular culture and time, can help us to understand the artistic and economic development of a society and culture, helping us to learn more about our evolution as a species.
Pottery pieces of various sizes and designs served multiple purposes – storage, food preparation, lighting, writing and art. Pottery evolved from rough hand constructions, to vessels formed using the coiling method, to firing them for enhanced durability, to use of the potter’s wheel (invented and refined during the sixth–fourth millennia BCE) to achieve thinner walls and finer features, to glazing and decorating them.
Pottery is one of the most ubiquitous remnants of ancient times, and its role in the evolution of culture can scarcely be overstated. Storage jars, ranging from small to large, preserved water, wine, and dry foods for domestic use throughout the year. Larger jars, amphorae with narrow necks and two handles each, could also transport goods a great distance.
Marine archaeologists have discovered numerous such amphorae containing wine and olive oil in shipwrecks from the second and first millennium BCE., throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
Luisa Baldinger grew up in Santa Fe during the fifties. She went to Colorado College where she majored in art before joining the Peace Corps In Peru for three years. There, high up in the Andes, she became involved with the world of handcrafts and participated in efforts to start marketing co-ops among the region’s craftspeople. Her introduction to pottery making was on a homemade kick wheel in the altiplano village of Pucará between Cusco and Puno.
Learning the craft from people who had been making clay vessels since ancient times, in the same way, from the same earth, gave Luisa a singular perspective when it came to creating her own pieces. Back in the States, she began taking ceramics classes at Ohio University.
“Making pots was the answer to combining the need to make a living with my training as an artist,” she says.
In the early eighties she married well-known Santa Fe potter Frank Willett, and since then they have been both working alone as well as collaborating to produce beautifully designed and superbly crafted pottery, that showcase their skills in wheel thrown pottery and slab-made work.
These new pieces by Luisa capture the mysterious and amorphous quality of the material they are made from. The oldest material known to man continues to gift us with its durability and beauty, just like the Earth itself.
Luisa Baldinger shows her work in Taos exclusively at Taos Blue on Bent Street. For more information, please visit their site linked below.
All images thanks to Taos Blue