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Minoan Pottery - A History Lesson
Part Two

Level: Middle School, High School
Grades: 6-12 | Age: 11+ | Written by: Andrea Mulder-Slater
[Andrea is one of the creators of]
Part One >> Part Two >> Part Three

Minoan Pottery - Part Two:

In early times, all Minoan pottery was handmade, for the true potters wheel did not come until the period of the early Palaces. These early pots were rather clumsy, round bottomed jugs and bulbous jars decorated with simple linear patterns on a red or brown semi-lustrous paint. This style was an early form of the so-called black glaze of Classical Greek pottery. In all actuality, a glaze was not used for decorating, rather an iron red clay slip which oxidizing conditions (clean fire) would fire red but under reducing conditions (smoky fire) would turn black. Absolute control over color was not achieved for a long time.

Eventually, Minoan pottery - as well as growing in artistic merit - grew more fanciful in shape and much less dull in pattern. The always experimenting artists created elaborate and exciting shapes. The potter created jugs with spouts somewhat reminiscent of toucan's beaks as well as knobby, spined "barbitone" pots. This last style seems to have started with the sticking of shells into wet clay.

Then there came beauty. Vasiliki ware was decorated in a variety of colors ... red, orange, yellow and white were often used. The paint was applied over the entire surface of the vessel and a mottled effect was achieved by holding burning twigs against the vase while it was still hot from the firing process. Vasiliki ware was the forerunner to the noted Kamares ware.

Art, being closely related to religion, found its way into the shrines of the Minoans. The Minoan people lifted their eyes to the hills and chose (as did many other cultures) to believe that their protective divinity resided in the caves of the mountains. They carved votive offerings in great abundance ... the indestructible part of which was in the form of pottery. The cave of Kamares is one such cave (mountain shrine) and the richness of discovery that it afforded the archaeologists caused them to give the name to an entire style of pottery - Kamares ware. Unlike earlier Cretan Pottery, Kamares ware was thrown on the wheel and the shapes were more delicate - sometimes eggshell thin. The crudity of barbitone knobbiness, or of toucan like spouts had gone and the Minoans were now displaying an exuberance that was sophisticated, self confident and controlled. The decoration was an elaboration of the white on black style of Vasiliki pottery, the patterns drawn in white, red, orange and yellow against a black ground.


> > On to Part Three

(where we wrap things up)

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