Harvey Littleton ceramic pots

Ceramic – an inorganic compound, non-metallic, solid material comprising metal, non-metal or metalloid atoms primarily held in ionic and covalent bonds. This article gives an overview of ceramic materials from the point of view of materials science.

Pottery – all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products. Some archaeologists excluding ceramic objects such as figurines which are made by similar processes, materials and the same people but are not vessels.

There are several materials that are referred to as clay. The properties of the clays differ in:

  • plasticity, the malleability of the body
  • porosity, the degree to which the fired pottery will absorb water
  • shrinkage, the degree of reduction in size of a body as water is removed.

The various clays also differ in the way in which they respond to different degrees of heat when fired in the kiln.

  • earliest-known ceramic objects are Gravettian figurines discovered at Dolní Věstonice in the modern-day Czech Republic. A statuette of a female figure dated to 29,000–25,000 BCE (
  • earliest pottery vessels date back to 20,000 BP and were discovered in China. The pottery may have been used as cookware.
  • pottery vessels excavated in southern China, dated from 16,000 BCE
  • in the Russian Far East, dated from 14,000 BCE.
  • Japan from around 10,500 BCE

That’s engineering

  • refractory – resistant to treatment; unresponsive to stimulus; difficult to fuse, corrode or draw out; especially capable of enduring high temperatures

Engineering ideas

  • ceramic, plasticity, malleability, porosity, absorb, shrinkage, reduction, heat, kiln

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