The pottery is one of the most important and oldest artistic handmade works of the man that has remained alive from the ancient time to the present. Due to the specific geographical location of their country on the way of the highway of civilizations, Iranians have not only been one of the pioneers in terms of pottery-making but also have been regarded as the most dexterous nation in this field. The pottery-making has been practiced in four residential areas of Iran as follows:
- The western region of the country in areas surrounding Zagros Mountains and close to Kermanshahan
- Southern shores of Caspian Sea
- Northwestern areas of Azerbaijan
- Southeastern regions of Iran close to the desert and central areas
Some potteries have been discovered in Iran that date back to some 8,000 years ago. The oldest potteries discovered in the archeological excavations in Iran are those unearthed in Ganj Tepe Valley in the province of Kermanshah that date back to the 8th millennium B.C. Some of these ancient items (with the history of 8,000-year old) have been discovered in regions such as Qotri to the south of Mazandaran province and close to the city of Behshahr, Tepe Zaqeh in Gazvin plain, Cheshmeh-Ali in Tehran and Tepe Sialk in Kashan. Potteries discovered in these areas are coarse with a soft internal part. To get adhesiveness, some materials such as grinded straws and vegetables were added into the original compound of these potteries that were water and soil. The pottery wheels were not used at the time of making these items. At that age, the temperature of the kiln was not controllable. Therefore, the final product was not completely hard and it did not have a consistent coloring. Sometimes, the internal part of the pottery remained gray or black to the low amount of the temperature (it was the case in the 6th millennium B.C.).
In the later stages, the pottery-making experienced more evolution when the soft sand and sand powder were used together with the soil to make vessels with very fine and thin walls. In this period, making vessels with the concave bottom and the convex bodies began. In light of the invention of the pottery wheels and its application for forming the pottery vessels in the 4th millennium B.C., a new transformation began in the pottery-making industry and more diverse decorations appeared on vessels.
The oldest potteries discovered in the archeological excavations in Iran are those unearthed in Ganj Tepe Valley in the province of Kermanshah that date back to the 8th millennium B.C.
Pottery-making is an art that has preserved its valuable technical principles in its traditional forms up to now. Studying these objects precisely, one could not only appreciate their artistic values but also understand the crafts, industries, the material works of various tribes and communities in various cultural territories. According to these facts, potteries should be recognized and valued as the expression of mental activities, creativity and artistic inventions of the man in the past since the pottery-making is a collective art that not only shows the taste of its creators but also reveal certain signs of the social life as well as material and spiritual characteristics of a life over a certain period of time through which we can directly get to know the civilizations of cities, ethnic groups and life conditions of various periods since every nation has been using its specific signs, pictures, and decorations for decorating its potteries.
As a craft, the pottery-making has perpetuated in Iran from the early days of its civilization up to now. It has witnessed various changes over this long period of time. According to Ghirshman, the French archeologist, some people were living in Bakhtiari Mountains around 10,000 years ago who were not only engaged in hunting and preparing foodstuffs but also they were busy with making potteries. Their products that are regarded as the beginning of the pottery-making industry in Iran by most of the archeologists, are valuable works to study. As Arthur Pope has asserted in its seminal work entitled “A Survey of Persian Art”, evidence discovered recently prove that agriculture and its related industries such as making jars, weaving and pottery-making began in the Persian Plateau.
The evolutionary path of pottery-making in the ancient mounds quickly brought the early settlers to the understanding that they could meet their needs through potteries. Potteries are the best works remained after the primitive communities. Particularly in civilizations of the Persian Plateau, different stages of ancient civilizations have been named after these potteries such as the gray potteries of northern civilizations, brownish potteries of western civilizations, and painted potteries of the Elamite civilization.
At the initial stages, they paid attention to the interior of vessels but later the decorations were added to the exterior in the painted potteries. Most of these vessels were bowls, legged jars, glasses and vessels similar to statues of animals. The invention of pottery wheels in Iran in the 4th millennium brought about a huge transformation in the pottery-making industry. The potteries unearthed in Sialk and archeological sites of Susa, Chogamish and Tall-i-bakun in the Persepolis indicate that they were made by pottery wheels. At this period, a transformation emerged in the field of drawing images. Initially, the bodies of vessels were decorated using geometric images and decorations. Then, the images of animals became prevailing in potteries. Later, artists reflected their beliefs, the status of their environments and lives, and a particular theme on potteries. They mainly imprinted reflection of their daily lives such ad their religious, moral and artistic features on potteries. Discoveries of Tepe Sialk, Tepe Hesar, Tepe Gian of Nahavand and other ancient mounds indicate that people living in these areas were engaged in making painted potteries as of the 5th millennium B.C. In fact, the potter and the artists used drawings on potteries as a way of composing poems in the ancient history of Persia. They used simple visual elements to show objects, animals and men. For instance, the parallel wavy lines inside a circle and a rectangle represented water. The triangle whose surface was patterned represented mountains. The square divided by horizontal and vertical lines with some wavy lines on it probably represented the farms. Animals drawn on potteries were mainly rams, deer, cows and birds. Unlike the drawings of caves, the real images of animals were not highlighted in potteries rather their summarized and exaggerated schemes were taken into consideration since the decorative aspects of potteries were important for the potter. Hence, the potter transforms the natural form to an abstract one to reach its decorative goals. Bodies of potteries became tender and shiny during this period. In all of the ancient villages and mounds, all of these steps can be identified more or less. It could be claimed that these staged depended on the civilizational period. For instance, when the potteries were coarse and uneven, the houses of people were made of the mud and clay walls. However, when the potteries got thin and smooth, the houses of people were made of adobes and bricks.