Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide to the Royal Riches
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At first, metalworkers would have copied shapes of vessels fashioned from materials that boasted still older craft histories: stone, wood, and clay. Potters in the Near East began making and firing clay vessels before 6000 B.C.E. The oldest method for making pottery is by hand, using a lump, slabs, or coils of clay. The potter's wheel was invented before 4000 B.C.E. Common techniques of decorating pots included painting selected areas, covering the surface with a thin slip made of iron–rich red clay, and burnishing (compacting the surface with a hard, smooth tool such as a pebble). Potters first fired vessels in hearths, but soon afterward in kilns, special constructions made of brick or stone in which temperatures could reach about 1,050 degrees Celsius. Firing pots at a high temperature improved their durability and impermeability, and also offered further opportunities for changing the surface color.
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Iran, Iron Age II-III, ca. 1000–600 B.C.E.
30.4 x 31.2 cm (11 15/16 x 12 15/16 in.)
Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge    S1998.22

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
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