Walter Noll; Robert B. Heimann:

Ancient Old World Pottery

Materials, Technology, and Decoration

2016. XVI, 311 pages, 93 figures, 36 tables, 16 plates, 17x24cm, 780 g
Language: English

ISBN 978-3-510-65336-2, paperback, price: 44.80 €

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BibTeX file


ceramicsglazemineralogytechnologyneolithicchalcolithicbronze agemesopotamiaanatoliasistanindus valleyegyptancient ceramicsXANESPIXETXRFneutron diffractionAFM


Synopsis top ↑

Ancient ceramics are a mainstay of archaeological assemblages, second to nothing in their sheer number of finds at almost all sites and in all cultures pertaining to the last ten thousand years, and as such unsurpassed in their information potential.

The authors summarise the development of ceramic technology throughout the Old World during Neolithic/ Chalcolithic/Bronze Ages. They base their study on mineralogical and chemical analyses of typical pottery fragments collected by the first author, Walter Noll during the last quarter of the past century. Readers and reviewers of the original German edition have often suggested the need for an updated English edition ofthis important work, finally undertaken by Robert B. Heimann.

Chapters one to four comprehensively describe - in a very readable way - the principles of ancient ceramic technology largely based on Walter Noll’s own work, demonstrating the chemical, mineralogical and materials science background of this subject matter. Chapter 5 discusses the results of Noll’s analytical work on a limited number of ancient ceramic objects from Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran, Sistan, the Indus Valley, and Egypt to complement the scientific foundation laid down in the first chapters.

The authors describe and explain in an intuitive and plausible way the sometimes very complex and erudite physico-chemical relationships among minerals during processing of clays and the firing of ceramics. Thus, they unravel the intricate interplay of the mineralogy of clays, and their processing, shaping, firing and painting to arrive at ceramic masterpieces handed down to us from the distant past.

In a logical manner, the authors present many procedural details about the making of ancient ceramics by addressing geographical, local geological, stratigraphic, and socio-economic constraints the ancient potters faced. By considering these environmental factors, an appreciation is won of all human, collective and collaborative processes needed to create and transmit the light of understanding of past societies.

93 figures, 16 colour plates and 36 tables as well as an extensive reference list, and exhaustive subject and location indices supplement the text this book which should is of widest interest not only to the ceramics specialist but also to everybody fascinated by the material witnesses of the technological achievements of ancient artisans.

Related title: Heimann/Magetti: Ancient and Historical Ceramics. Materials, Technology, Art and Culinary Traditions

Table of Contents top ↑

Table of Contents
Preface I (Robert Heimann) V
Preface to the German edition (1991) VIII
Preface II (Thilo Rehren) IX
About the authors XII
Table of contents XIV
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
1.1 The janiform nature of ceramics 1
1.2 In the beginning, there were ceramics 3
1.3 Ceramics – the first pyrotechnology? 6
Chapter 2 Methods of investigation 8
2.1 Instrumental analytics 8
2.1.1 Chemical compositions 9
2.1.2 Phase content 12
2.1.3 Micromorphology and texture 15
2.2 Reconstruction of the manufacturing process based on material analyses 17
2.2.1 Chemical and phase composition 17
2.2.2 Detection of forgeries 20
2.2.3 Antique sources and pictorial documentation 20
2.3 Contemporary pottery techniques as interpretive tools 21
Chapter 3 Ancient ceramics 23
3.1 Fundamentals of ancient and modern ceramics 23
3.2 The ancient ceramic material 25
3.2.1 Chemical composition 25
3.2.2 Phase composition 33
3.2.3 Texture 43
3.2.4 Colour 51
3.3 Contemporary autochthonous ceramics as proxy for ancient materials 55
3.4 Clays of contemporary autochthonous pottery 61
3.4.1 Crete 62
3.4.2 Mainland Greece 65
3.4.3 Mesopotamia 68
3.4.4 Egypt 69
3.4.5 Roman Rhineland 71
3.5 Reconstruction of green clay processing methods 71
3.5.1 Preparation of clays 73
3.5.2 Forming 76
3.5.3 Decoration, application of handles, drying 80
3.6 The ceramic firing process 81
3.6.1 Ceramics as a heterogeneous system out of equilibrium 81
3.6.2 The influence of the gas atmosphere 83
3.6.3 Phase formation in calcareous clays 91
3.6.4 Phase formation in non-calcareous clays 97
3.6.5 Development of ceramic texture during firing 100
3.6.6 Thermometry of the ancient ceramic firing process 103
Chapter 4 Décor, design, and pattern 110
4.1 Fundamentals 110
4.2 Ceramic painting 112
4.2.1 Iron oxide black/iron reduction technique 113
4.2.2 Manganese black/manganese black technique 128
4.2.3 Carbon black/C-black technique 141
4.2.4 Iron oxide red/iron oxidation technique 142
4.2.5 Copper red 143
4.2.6 White pigments 145
4.2.7 Mixed pigments 149
4.2.8 Bi- and polychrome colours 150
4.3 Smoking 153
4.3.1 Carbon content 153
4.3.2 Nature of carbon 157
4.3.3 Methods of decoration by smoking 159
4.3.4 Distribution of C-black technique 162
4.4 Cold painting 163
4.4.1 The pigments 164
4.4.2 Adhesives 188
4.5 Metallic appliqués 193
4.5.1 Tin, tin alloys and lead 193
4.5.2 Gold and silver 199
Chapter 5 Regional ceramic developments 201
5.1 Mesopotamia (Neolithic to Chalcolithic) 201
5.1.1 The ceramic body 203
5.1.2 The painting (iron reduction technique) 207
5.1.3 The white ‘slip’ 215
5.1.4 C-black techniques 216
5.2 Anatolia (Neolithic-Chalcolithic, Phrygian) 217
5.2.1 The ceramic body 218
5.2.2 The painting 219
5.3 Iran 222
5.3.1 The ceramic body 223
5.3.2 The painting 225
5.4 Sistan, Indus Valley cultures 229
5.4.1 Sistan 229
5.4.2 Indus Valley cultures 234
5.5 Egypt 236
5.5.1 Role of pottery in ancient Egypt 236
5.5.2 The ceramic body and its raw materials 240
5.5.3 The coloured decoration 247
5.5.4 Specifics of ancient Egyptian ceramic technology 259
Plates 261
References 269
Subject Index 294
Location Index 298
Appendix I Important mineral phases present in ancient ceramics and
detectable by X-ray diffraction 301
Appendix II Compositions of ancient ceramics, plotted in the ternary phase
diagram SiO2/Al2O3/(CaO+MgO) 302