• Rajaa Ayoubi

THE POTTER'S WHEEL | Past to Present



Sometime between 6000 - 4000 BC, the first potter's wheel was invented in Mesopotamia. This brought about a revolution in the way ancient people could create items out of clay.

The wheel was founded in history in ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Syria, Iraq, and other lands surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) around 4000 BC.

Then Sumerians adapted the wheel concept and popularized this faster method of turning and shaping pottery.

A stone potter's wheel found at the Sumerian city of Ur in modern-day Iraq was dated to about 3129 BC, but fragments of wheel-thrown pottery of even earlier dates have been recovered in the same area.

The potters wheel was one of the main reasons civilization arose, it allowed people to deal with food leftovers much easier. With this new invention, pots and vessels were created much faster, and more people were able to work on other technological and architectural inventions at the time. This helped speed the rate of advancement in the civilization. Pots, then, were made using much less clay than before. Mesopotamians were able to then create higher grade pots and vessels using a little amount of material, allowing the pieces to be lightweight, and allowing them to make more pots with the same amount of resources they had before.

This made it popular to use a potters wheel for more fine arts such as plates and decoration pots. These pots became famous and nobles and high ranking members of society invested in them greatly. This increased the economy and trade with outside nobles in other cultures as well. Pottery made on the wheel usually had finer texture and had to be worked well to remove mineral inclusions. And while hand building was used to make storage vessels and pots, pottery that would have been used for art or decoration purposes or for fine dinnerware had to be worked on a potters wheel to make it of good quality and make it fine enough to be considered an art piece, or something the nobles would want to display to show status. Soon the potters wheel became common enough that most pottery was made using them.

The first well known form of the potters wheel was the Tournette. According to archaeologists, the tournette was constructed as a heavy, strong disk of stone, baked clay or wood, balanced on a relatively low fixed pivot of wood or stone. Their sizes went up to about a meter in diameter. They were slow wheels at first turned by hand while coiling a pot and smoothing the clay out and thin.

The following are examples of the structure of the wheels:

The wheels were used first in every household, as people would make a number of pots and vessels they needed and that was enough. But slowly, the potters wheel became popular for bigger amounts of production, and it became a profession. Then 4000 thousand years after it was invented other countries like India, Turkey, and the East had started to use and develop the design and mechanism of the potters wheel.

Around the 3rd millennium BC, the fast wheel was developed, which operated by the flywheel principle. It was built higher off the ground or low and wide and utilized the power of the rotating heavy stone wheel on the bottom to speed the process of turning. It was turned with the force of kicking or forcefully pushing with a stick. This method of turning enabled the technique of throwing, as the clay is squeezed inwards and formed into vessels and pots as it turns.

By the 18th century, there were new ways to turn the wheel. In some areas, little boy apprentices would turn the wheel for potters.

Then slowly by the 19th century, potter wheels began to function mechanically and evolved significantly till it became the potter wheel we all know today.

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