What was African pottery like?
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African Pottery

Nubian vase
Vase from Nubia (modern Sudan), ca. 3000 BC

People first began to make clay pots in Africa about 6000 BC. From Sudan and Ethiopia to Egypt, the pottery styles are very similar.

By 400 BC, West African Nok and Yoruba potters were making pottery, as well as large clay sculptures.

Around 75 AD, North African potters began to imitate imported Roman pottery, and soon they began to export their imitation Roman pottery all over the Mediterranean, Europe, and West Asia. By about 100 AD, the African pottery had driven Roman pottery-makers out of business, and most of the clay plates and cups used in the whole Roman Empire were made in North Africa.

Classic Kisalian pot
Pot from the Congo, ca. 1000 AD

About 200 AD, the Nok and Yoruba cultures in West Africa evolved into the Ife and Benin kingdoms.

Further south, in Congo, the Kisalian culture produced its own style of pottery beginning about 900 AD.

Islamic bowl from Carthage
Islamic pottery from Carthage (Byrsa Museum), ca. 1100 AD

Even after the collapse of the Roman Empire, North African pottery factories continued to operate and to sell pottery throughout the Mediterranean area. After the establishment of the Islamic Empire in the late 600s AD, North African potters continued to work. Imitating Chinese pottery imported from West Asia, North African potters now colored their pots white with various colors, using metal and glass glazes as we do today.

Learn by doing: make a clay pot
Egyptian Pottery
African Red Slip pottery

Bibliography and further reading about African pottery:

Egyptian Pottery
Roman Pottery
Islamic Pottery
Early African Art
Ancient Africa
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Happy New Year! Welcome back! Get ready for Martin Luther King day with these articles about medieval Africa, slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. himself. More about King here...