Aged like fine wine to make ancient sewers & knockoff turquoise

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach pre-teens about ancient civilizations. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


I used to be confused about why painted pottery was so often by archaeologists when investigating ancient peoples. Then I realized:

  1. it's less likely to degrade than a lot of other materials
  2. it's used for food storage and transportation so it's super common, it's not just "art"
  3. painted amphorae are functionally the equivalent of tractor trailer trucks with advertisements and art decorating them, or the logos painted on wine bottles.

So now I'm integrating the importance of ceramics into the magic system for the world I'm building, which feels remarkably on-brand.

Fun Facts

  • Porcelain is the least porous type of ceramic. Its brilliant white color is the result of a lack of mineral contaminants in the clay used to create it.
  • While almost every civilization on Earth had some level of ceramic development, ancient China and Persia had the largest influence on the development of ceramics, worldwide.
  • Clay is usually not very pure. Most clay deposits have other elements mixed in, which gives the clay different properties.
  • "Pottery" and "ceramics" are not interchangeable words; pottery is a subset of ceramics and unlike ceramics does not include things like clay-fire dolls and sculptures.
  • Fired clay was used to create ancient sewers in Babylon as far back as 4000 BCE.

Korean Stoneware

Bluish-grey buncheong uses dark, iron-rich clay decorated with white slip (watery clay). Counterintuitively, it's a less refined version of the celadon common during the preceding dynasty or the porcelain that came later. [Read More]

Like Fine Wine

Historically, apprentices were responsible for hauling raw clay from riverbanks and mines, then processing it to get impurities out. It would then be mixed with water to aid plasticity and aged in caves, like wine. [Read More]

The First Faience

Also known as tjehenet, "Egyptian" faience is a quartz-based ceramic invented in Mesopotamia. It's a glassy substance made by grinding quartz (sand) with copper and some other stuff, then heating up and shaping it. Scholars think they used it to make knockoff turquoise. [Read More]

The Second Faience

Faience, without a modifier, actually refers to glazed ceramics, especially tin-glazed pottery. Common examples are the bright white with blue-painted decorations known as maiolica in Italy and delftware when manufactured by the Dutch. [Read More]


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