What Pottery Symbolizes

March 6, 2010 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Painting Nicole3 FabbriniIn my latest post, “Climate Change”, I pointed out the earliest pottery shards dating thirteen-thousand-years back were found in East Siberia, South China and on the big northern island of Japan. Some of the shards were combed, some had been wrapped in nettle cloth before firing.

Further West the earliest finds of  pottery began five thousand years later together with a beginning agriculture and  domestication of sheep and goats. However, farming and animals were not the reasons for people to settle into villages as the excavations of Çatalhüyük in East-central Turkey, Jericho in Palestine, Mureybet in Syria, and now also the excavation in the Serteya valley in North-western Russia demonstrate. These villages were founded ten thousand years ago by hunter-gatherers. It took the inhabitants two thousand years before they had genetically changed the wild cereals and domesticated the animals.  Only then did they begin to make pottery and weave.

comb-decorated bowl from Japan

Bowl decorated with a comb. Jomon 10,000 -8,000 BC. Tokyo National Museum, Japan. Wikimedia Commons


Pottery is clay and water transformed by fire. The clay belongs to the earth, because it is dug out of it. It is a part of the Earth.

A story about Krishna, one of the most beloved Hindu gods, tells us how he once as a small boy filled his mouth with clay and then just stood there with his mouth full, energetically shaking his head. When at last his foster mother managed to open his mouth, what did she see? Not gooey clay but the earth with its mountains, rivers and forests, and the moon and the stars – the whole  universe.

The clay not only represents the earth, it is the Earth, our home, the place where we live and the place that our earth belongs to, the cosmos. In the same way the water mixed with the dry clay represents Water, the water in the springs, rivers, lakes and the sea. The pottery participates in all that the earth, water, and fire symbolize.


Entry filed under: Earth, Myth, Pottery.

Climate Changes and . . . Mother Earth?

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