Pottery Holds Many Secrets about Ancient Civilizations

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Pottery Holds Many Secrets about Ancient Civilizations


Byline: J. Hope Babowice

You wanted to know

Jeff Gonring, 9, of Libertyville wanted to know:

Who invented the first piece of clay?

If you have a question you'd like Kids Ink to answer, write Kids Ink, c/o the Daily Herald, 50 Lakeview Parkway, Suite 104, Vernon Hills, IL 60061. Along with your question, please include your name, age, phone number, hometown, grade and school.

For further reading

To learn more about clay, Vernon Area Public Library in Lincolnshire suggests:

- "Clay" by Annabelle Dixon

- "Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters" by Rina Swentzell

- "Clay-dough, Play-dough" by Goldie Taub Chernoff

- "A Potter" by Douglas Florian

- "Ceramics From Clay to Kiln" by Harvey Weiss

- "When Clay Sings" by Byrd Baylor

Canadian Boy Scout page on making different kinds of play-dough and clay items at http://www.interlog/com/~spiers/crafts/craftrec.htm

"Who invented the first piece of clay?" asks Jeff Gonring, 9, a third-grader at Libertyville's Butterfield School.

Clay is one of the earth's natural elements and can be found nearly all over the globe. Clay is small particles of rock that can be molded with water. It has never gone out of style; people used clay as long ago as 8000 B.C. to form pottery and today it is still a common medium.

Clay is used to create a variety of things including bricks, bathroom tile, electrical conductors, dinner plates and flower pots.

Ancient man's discovery that hardened clay, when fired, can become watertight, led to the many uses we now have for pottery.

There are many types of clay, each with a distinct temperature at which it hardens. The finest type of clay is called kaolin and is used in china and porcelain. Clay can also be mixed with other materials like quartz, dolomite, feldspar and talc to achieve different results.

Not only is pottery a useful and often beautiful medium, it has been used as a tool for archaeologists to uncover messages from the past.

"Every different culture that has had pottery has had a different perspective," said Susan Marcus, curator of the Rosenbaum Artifact Center at Chicago's Spertus Museum, a part of the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies. …

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