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710
[WESTERN ASIA
CERAMICS

the designs in relief, imitated from foreign originals, a style which now became usual on vases. The usual decoration is mixed Egyptian and classical, the latter generally predominating. A large range of colours was employed; purple, dark blue, blue-green, grass-green, and yellow glazes all being found. The glaze is very thickly laid on, and is often “crazed” (6, 8). A remarkable instance of this Romano-Egyptian faience is the head of the god Bes in the British Museum (No. 35,028). A hard, light blue, opaque glaze like that of the XXVIth Dynasty is occasionally, but rarely, met with in the case of vases (British Museum, Nos. 37,407, 37,408).

We know something of the common wares in use during this period from the study of the ostraka, fragments of pottery on which dated tax-receipts, notes, and so forth were written. From the ostraka we see that during the Ptolemaic period the commonest pottery was made of red ware covered with white slip, which has already been mentioned. At the beginning of the Roman period we find at Elephantine a peculiar light pink ware with a brownish pink face, and elsewhere a smooth dark brown ware. About the 3rd century A.D. horizontally ribbed or fluted pots, usually of a coarse brown ware, came into general use. These were often large-sized amphorae, with very attenuated necks and long handles (see fig. 9). During the Byzantine (Coptic) period most of the pottery in use was ribbed, and usually pitched inside to hold water, as the ware was loose in texture and porous.

EB1911 Ceramics Fig. 9.—Egyptian pottery under the Ptolemies.jpg
Fig. 9.—Egyptian pottery under the Ptolemies, showing Greek influence in the shapes.

During the Coptic period, a lighter ware was also in use, decorated with designs of various kinds in white, brown or red paint on the dull red or buff body. In Nubia a peculiar development of this ware is characteristic of the later period (Brit. Mus. No. 30,712).

A polished red ware of Roman origin (imitation Arretine or “Samian”) was commonly used as well.

The heavily glazed blue faience continued in use until replaced in the early Arab period by the well-known yellow and brown lead-glazed pottery, of which fragments are found in the mounds of Fostat (Old Cairo).

Western Asia.—Palestine. The most ancient Palestinian pottery is the rough “Amorite” ware from Lachish (Tel el-Hesi) which sometimes has wavy handles like the prehistoric Egyptian (18). Later we find actual Mycenaean pottery in Philistia (19), an interesting testimony to the truth of the legend which brings the Philistines from Crete; the fourth and fifth cities of Lachish (1200–1000 B.C.) show us the first ordinary Phoenician or Israelite pottery—buff or red lamps and bowls, the latter with the handles sometimes painted in bistre, and vases showing strong Egyptian influence; while pottery from Cyprus and elsewhere is found as in Egypt.

The only remarkable later development of Palestinian pottery is the Phoenician imitation of Egyptian faience of the Saite period, of which the characteristics are well known. Some of this may actually have been made in Egypt.

The course of the potter’s art in Mesopotamia and Persia appears to have run on lines of development parallel with the art in Egypt, for the country between the Tigris and the Euphrates is rich in good clays, and, wherever the invention of glass arose, its application to pottery decoration was certainly developed at an early period in Egypt and in Mesopotamia.

Two characteristic uses of clay wares must, however, be pointed out, though they have nothing to do with vase-making.

1. The Babylonian and Assyrian use of clay shaped into tablets, cylinders and prisms, to produce an imperishable record of the literature of the time. The cylinders and prisms were thrown on the potter’s wheel and are consequently hollow; the circular form was then sliced down, and the surface was impressed with cuneiform inscriptions, the prism, tablet or cylinder being subsequently dried and fired.

2. The architectural use of glazed bricks and slabs. While the Egyptians remained content for the most part with the application of their brilliant alkaline glazes to small and delicately-finished objects, the Babylonians and Assyrians developed an architecture decorated with glazed and coloured brickwork. The bricks were of very open texture, and the ornamental pattern or figure subjects were obtained by a strong outline in dark-coloured clay which formed a kind of cloison or boundary, the shallow cells between being filled in with coloured clays—yellow, red or white—or with coloured glazes of turquoise, green or blue, yellow and purplish brown. These glazes are obviously like the Egyptian, but they are more coarsely prepared and are always full of bubbles and consequently more or less opaque. Yet the severe simplicity of the method, the splendid colour effect, strong yet sumptuous, entitles these productions to a very high rank among all the world’s work in clay and glaze. The “Frieze of the Archers” now in the Louvre may be mentioned as one of the finest productions of its kind, and the Louvre and British Museum possess the finest collections of this early architectural use of glazed and coloured clay. (See also Mural Decoration)

EB1911 Ceramics Fig. 10.—Assyrian biscuit pottery.jpg
Fig. 10.—Assyrian biscuit pottery.

Coming to ordinary pottery we find that in early times well-formed vases made of good clay, unglazed and unpainted, were made. Small figures of deities made of the same clay are often found. It is practically the same terra-cotta as that of the inscribed tablets. None of the forms are particularly distinctive (see fig. 10). The excavations of the French in Persia have brought to light at Moussian in Susiana an extremely interesting painted ware, which belongs to a very early period. The decoration is usually geometrical. The technique seems to be analogous to the Mycenaean-Greek (Firnismalerei), and the whole effect is very like that of the Greek, Late Mycenaean or Dipylon pottery. The ware is buff in colour and fine in texture, with a polished surface. The decoration is sometimes in polychrome, but usually in the grey-brown iron-glaze (?) alone. This pottery degenerates later and finally disappears (20).

EB1911 Ceramics Fig. 11.—Assyrian glazed and enamelled pottery.jpg
Fig. 11.—Assyrian glazed and enamelled pottery.

During the Sargonide period in Assyria (7th century B.C.) we find a polychrome faience (colours usually white and brown) obviously of Egyptian origin. It was used, not for vases, but architectonically for friezes, ornamental bosses, &c. Its origin may be found in Egypt under the XVIIIth Dynasty, when Egyptian influence extended to the Tigris, and Babylonia had regular diplomatic relations with Egypt In Asia this polychrome decoration in glazes continued to be used long after it had ceased to be made in the country of its origin; the enamelled brick decoration of Persepolis is the descendant of the glazed inlay decorations of Tel el-Amarna, Tel el-Yahudiya and Kuyunjik. In the Sargonide period blue glazed vases occur (see fig. 11) which are probably of Egyptian origin or are Phoenician imitations of Egyptian faience.

Characteristic of the Parthian period is a coarse green glazed pottery of which the slipper-shaped coffins, of the time were made