Ancient Greek Pottery
Perhaps of all the arts that flourished in antiquity, ceramic art has the longest continuous history. And this may well be accounted for by the fact that it was utilitarian, for even in those periods when other arts had declined, people still needed pottery to collect and store their oil, grain, water, and wine. Thus, whereas certain forms of art disappear for periods at a time to reappear in an other form or style, the ceramic art appears in all periods from the time it made its first appearance in Greek lands in the 6th Millennium B.C. Moreover, clay, the material which was used in the manufacture of pottery, from the moment it was kilned became almost indestructible, even when the pot was shattered, something which could not happen with other materials such as wood, textiles, and so on. As a result, whereas there are gaps in our knowledge of other arts, and we must turn to related sources to fill these gaps, this is not the case with pottery, the evolution of which can be traced without interruption from the Neolithic age to the end of the ancient Greek world. In this long period of development of Greek ceramics, the shapes of the vases may have altered, or may have become more finished and may have been better adapted to the end of which they were made, but they never ceased to be utilitarian for their purpose was, with few exceptions, to serve the daily needs of man. Most pottery was decorated and each period had its individual style of decorations. One always notes a continuous effort to adjust the ornamentation to the shape of the pot. The themes or subjects used also changed from period to period, and in these changes there are certain preferences for the one or other subject by which means we can not only differentiate the esthetic criteria but even the historical changes in the manner of thought itself. It is not fortuitous, for example, that in the period when one of the most characteristic of maxims 'Man is the measure of all things' was in vogue, the Greek vases almost [p. 209] exclusively used the human figure for decorative purposes. The appearance of pure Greek ceramic art is chronoogically placed in the 11th century, somewhere round about 1050 BC. The 12th C. was a period of great upheavals and readjustment in all Greek lands, but also in the entire Eastern Mediterranean basin. In Greece itself, along with the destruction of Mycenaean civilization [whatever the cause may have been], there perished many of the arts that had reached their peak. The only artifacts, or almost the only remnants to survive of this great civilization were the pottery and potsherds. In examining the ceramic artifacts of the period which followed the destruction of Mycenaean civilization one can see that this destruction, although of major proportions, was not total. In the 11th Century there begins to appear a new type of decoration which initially retained many features of late Mycenaean art, the main characteristic being geometric designs. It is on this account that the pottery which is decorated in this manner is known as Geometric. Since most finds of this period consisted of pottery, the comparatively long range of time up to about 700 BC has been named the Geometric period. Geometric art, as all arts, went through various stages of development until attainting its peak in the 8th Century. That which distinguishes it most is the remarkable blend and harmony of shape and decoration. Whereas in the Mycenaean period pottery was decorated as a whole and a single motif covered the entire area, either in the form of flowers or sea life, octopi, and so on, now the surface of the pot was separated into parallel bands of geometric patterns. In the early geometric period, the vase was painted with dark veneer, black or brown and only one or two bands remaining uncolored, over which the decoration extends. Gradually, these light-coloured bands began to expand into wider bands covering a broader area of...
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