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by Archaeology Newsroom

An Introduction to Byzantine Glazed Pottery. Aspects of Technology and Decorative Techniques

The study of Byzantine glazed pottery has made considerable progress of late. This short essay summarises recent archaeological data and links them with the findings of archaeometrical and ethnographical studies to give an introduction to the technology and decorative techniques of Byzantine glazed pottery. Byzantine glazed pottery belongs in the category of earthen ware. It was thrown on a foot-operated wheel and coated with lead glaze. The wares were fired twice, and coated with lead glaze. The wares were fired twice, first to convert the raw, soft clay into hard ceramic (the biscuit firing) and then to make the glaze adhere to the ceramic surface and become transparent and shiny (the glaze firing). In the early thirteenth century the Byzantine workshops changed their method of firing glazed wares and started to stack them on top of each other, separating them with tripod stilts, and thus making better use of the space inside the kiln and facilitating mass production. Another interesting technique was the use of clay rods inside the kiln. With one end embedded in the walls of the kiln, they formed shelves of a kind, on which the wares were placed for firing. It is method, very well known in the Islamic World, that also used in the pottery work-shops in Byzantine Serres in northern Greece. As far as its decorative techniques are concerned, Byzantine glazed pottery falls into three main categories: Sgraffito Ware (with the decoration engraved through layer of slip), Painted Ware, and Relief Ware. Further research into the technology of Byzantine pottery will improve our knowledge of a commodity that is important for our understanding of the Byzantines’ everyday lives.