Published on June 29, 2011 by Amy
Clay that is fired during the making of pottery does not alter over time. Information pertaining to ancient Native Americans is based on the discovery of the remains of clay pots by archaeologists.
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Creation of American Indian pottery fell solely on the women of the tribe. Clay vessels of varied sizes and shapes stored water, grains and seeds. Clay pots for cooking were made to rest atop rocks set over open fires, and implements for eating and drinking were also made of clay. Pottery was also used during religious ceremonies.
Hand-made clay coils form the pot’s sides, while shells, stones and pieces of broken pottery drawn upwards by hand are used to thin the clay walls. Various colors of clay are thinned and rubbed over the surface to prepare the pottery for decoration. Stones passed down through the generations are used to polish the clay pot before the firing of the vessel completes the process.
Done over an open flame, clay firing is unpredictable. Wind and unevenly distributed heat can cause breakage of the pottery. Indian potters sometimes mix volcanic ash with the clay before making the vessel because of the ash’s resistance to fire.
Early Native American pottery lacked adornment. Designs representing nature, humans and gods decorated Indian pottery in subsequent times. In keeping with tradition, a split Yucca stem is used to paint the designs.
The pottery-making tradition honors American Indian ancestors and helps to finance today’s families and the tribes as well.