MUD: Man and Mud

History/Processes/Procedures of Clay

Earliest Ceramic Art

What are the earliest examples of ceramic sculpture and pottery?

The oldest prehistoric ceramic art was made during the ancient Japanese Jomon culture. Ceramic remains taken from one of the most ancient archelogical sites were carbon-dated to between 14,540 and 13,320 BCE. Most Jomon pots are small with rounded bottoms.  The earliest Chinese pottery also emerged during this time.

Bottle, Late Jomon period(ca. 1500–1000 b.c.) Japan
Earthenware with incised designs

Source: Bottle [Japan] (1975.268.184) | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Click here to see more images of Jomon Pottery.

Also, make sure to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art for additional information including more photos and an interactive timeline of Jomon culture.

Pottery from Around the World

Object NameDish Date16th century GeographyIran, Tabriz 
MediumGlazed pottery, stonepaste Dimensions13 in. (33 cm)

Dish, 16th century
Iran, Tabriz
Glazed pottery, stonepaste

Blue-Painted Ibex Amphora from Malqata
New Kingdom
Dynasty 18
of Amenhotep III
ca. 1390–1353 B.C.
Egypt, Thebes, MMA 1910-1911
pottery, white cream slip, paint

Bowl, Head on Rim
11th–14th century
United States, Missouri

Man in Mud!

Onggi Pottery begins around 4000 to 5000 BC. Watch as Adam Field builds an Onggi pot using traditional clay techniques.


Visit Adam Field's website.

Why did they start creating pottery?

The earliest containers used by early man were hollowed out pieces of stone or wood or bags of animal skin and baskets. Basketry is one of the earliest crafts to be developed. Almost every region of the world has suitable materials, in grasses, reeds or willows, and the resulting object is both cheap and light.

But baskets are not good for containing liquids. For that purpose early technology soon found another material which is cheap, widely available and (by comparison with stone) relatively light.

This material is clay.

To read more click here.

Pottery Fu (Cooking Vessel)-Shaped Vessel

Paleolithic Age to Neolithic Age 12000 years ago
Diameter at mouth 32.5cm height 29.8cm
Restored on the basis of unearthed pottery pieces at Yuchanyan, Dao County in 1995
It is by far the earliest pottery discovered, a cooking vessel.

Time Line

Year Development
24,000 B.C. Ceramic figurines used for ceremonial purposes
14,000 B.C. First tiles made in Mesopotamia and India
9000-10,000 B.C. Pottery making begins

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Search terms dealing directly with a specific culture like "Ancient Greek Pottery" or "Jomon Pottery, Japan". Also, try exploring other ancient cultures not mentioned on this page. ("pottery in Mesopotamia", "ancient Egyptian Pottery")

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Greek Pottery

The Greeks develop by far the most sophisticated tradition of early pottery, and Greek vases survive in greater numbers than any other ceramic group of comparable age.

To watch a video on the Ancient Greek technique, click here.

Nolan neck-amphora with triple handles, ca. 470–460 b.c.; red-figure
Attributed to the Achilles Painter
Greek, Attic

Pottery from Around the World









Jar with Dragon
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Pottery with painted decoration (Cizhou ware)

Rookwood Pottery (1880–1967)
Midwest, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Earthenware, silver

Terracotta miniature volute-krater (mixing bowl)
Terracotta; applied color
Greek, South Italian, Apulian, Gnathian
Late Classical
ca. 325–300 B.C.

View more images of world pottery.