Did You Know?

By Debra Conley


             Pottery is referenced in several Biblical passages, usually referring to the body as a vessel like a clay pot. Much of the determination of time periods is done with archaeological finds of pottery. Of course, all the “dating” is done by man, the time periods assigned made up by man, and the craft improvements help men see the possibility of  future developments, but most is educated guess work. What seems to be more fascinating to me is the actual vessel itself. According to The Archaeological Study Bible, information found in modern digs shows that pottery was big business simply because for many centuries, it was the primary means for storing almost anything-from foods to manuscripts, as we know from the Qumran discoveries. It became the decoration of choice; pottery was formed in many soft and flowing patterns as much as it was in sturdy functional shapes. Then came the colors! Apparently, black was the first color added to the clay pottery, then came red and white. Somewhere after 500 B.C., excavators found pots with name inscriptions defining the pride of the potter. Some have been found with words similar to, “belongs to the king” since those were special pots made by the king’s royal guild potters and colored with his own coat of dynastic colors.

If you look at various pictures of these ancient pots, see how definite and even the added colors are. A number of sources were used to create the colors. Biblical areas were noted for red ocre and oxides ground to fine powders and applied to the pots with water. Beautiful purples and blues were often made from one of several species of sea snails that are found in the eastern Mediterranean. These are the the spiny dye murex, originally known as murex shells. In Acts 16, Paul gets his first convert in Europe, Lydia, the famed seller of purple dye. The talent of pottery, of colors, and artistry is often in the Bible.

Note how many shapes and sizes of pots have been found. If a pot is highly curved, how did those potters get the color lines so even? I wonder. This was a great skill for one with an artistic eye and steady hand. If you have ever tried to form a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel, you will realize what skill is involved in making the perfect pot. The skilled potter knows what the end result is to be; he sees it in his mind’s eye and that is the same as the Biblical reference to us as products of the Lord’s exacting craft. He knows what the end result will be and His potter’s wheel is constantly turning, improving each vessel.