Updated: Oct 18, 2021
As I wrote in Wandering the World, next to architecture my favorite artistic media is pottery. And since most civilizations around the world made and used pots functionally, it tells me a lot about their culture-ancient or modern. In the book I referred to several types of pots in my collection that I was not able to include photos of, so I am adding some here.
Perhaps the weirdest use of a type of pottery was Canopic jars used in Egypt. They were used for the mummified organs of the elite and buried with the bodies. The lid had a head of a god, to further protect the person in the afterlife. I bought a replica jar (photo below) in the museum store of the Cairo Archeology Museum. That was an amazing museum of so many relics removed from the pyramid tombs from 5000 BCE to about 1000 BCE. Its building was old and too small and has been moved to a great new building since my visit in 2018.
Some indigenous pottery is still being created, such as the Dreamweaver designs of the aborigines in Australia. There are myriad designs, but typically with stylized animals and always dots, considered an extension of the earth and telling a story. The terracotta pottery now has stopped being functional but are still works of art.
Other contemporary pottery that is representative of an ancient culture is that of the American southwest. I had the opportunity to visit the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico and purchase a beautiful pot signed by the potter who made it. It is the largest pot in my collection that I was able to get home, because I was driving. Otherwise, I wrap my fragile treasures and carry them with me on the plane.
I wrote about my favorite pieces in Wandering the World and showed a photo of a bowl from Petra, Jordan. Researchers found enough shards to be able to have a chemist and potter replicate the fine, thin but strong pottery from the ancient Nabateans. Here’s a photo in color.
Sometimes the pieces representing the culture of the area are not pottery-that is not made of clay. For example, I have a pot from Tonga that is carved from thin wood, and a calabash from Argentina that is a cup for drinking kava, made from a gourd.
I also have a few terracotta pieces that are not pots. Here is a photo of an ocarina, a type of flute from Belize. And I have a characteristic Iznik tile from Turkey and various totems representative of cultures, such as a plaque with a replica of the bas relief carved on Ankgor Wat in Cambodia.
I had not counted the number of items I have in my collection until I wrote the section on Artifacts, but found that I have 70 items mostly one per country I have visited. That doesn’t count the contemporary pieces I have just because they are beautiful and I appreciate how well-made they are.