Pinch Pot History – A History of Pinch Pots Over the Years (2024)

Pinch pots are one of the oldest ways of making pottery. There is evidence that pinch pot history starts many thousands of years ago. The simplicity of the technique has survived over the millennia. When I discovered that pinch pots were being made as far back as the Neolithic era, I was oddly reassured. It connects us to the past.

I like this feeling of connection to earlier eras when life was very different. So, I thought I would do some more research. And this is what I found out about the pinch pot history.

Pinch Pot History – A History of Pinch Pots Over the Years (1)

The Origins of Pottery

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Evidence suggests that pottery first began around 20,000 years ago in China. There is a cave in eastern China called the Xianrendong Cave. Sherds of pottery dating back this long have been found in the cave. The cave was known to have been inhabited by people at that time.

There is also evidence of pottery dating back 10-16,000 years in Russia. This pottery was found on the Russian side of the Amur River, which is on the border of China and Russia. (source)

Pottery in the Western world was a bit slower to appear. Evidence of functional pottery in the West dates back to around 9000 years ago.

There is some disagreement among scholars about when and where the potter’s wheel was invented. Some suggest it was in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, around 3129 BC. Others argue that the wheel was first used in South Asia around 3500C.

Either way, functional pottery was being made long before the potter’s wheel was introduced. Prior to using the potter’s wheel, pottery was made using a variety of hand-building techniques. These techniques included the making of pinch pots.

A Pinch Pot History

The pinch pot technique involves shaping a piece of clay into a ball. Then press your thumb into the ball of clay and pinch the clay with your finger and thumb. This pinching action opens up the clay into a vessel shape.

Some ancient pots were made entirely using the pinching technique. Others were made using a combination of other hand building methods. The other hand building methods used were:

  • Slab Building
  • Molding
  • Coiling
  • Wheel Coiling
  • Percussion (anvil and paddle)

A History of Small Pinch Pots

Small pots can easily be made using the pinching technique. A good example of this is the Japanese Tea Bowl, which has a long history stretching back to the 13th century.

The Japanese Tea Bowl can be made using a number of techniques. They are sometimes thrown on the wheel, giving them an even shape and design. Another technique is to carve them out of clay, scooping out the center of the clay bowl with a tool.

However, many ancient Japanese Tea Bowls were made using the pinching technique. Here is an example of two raku Tea Bowls dating back to the 17th Century.

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Pinch Pot History – A History of Pinch Pots Over the Years (3)

A History of Larger Pinch Pots

Larger pots can be made by joining two smaller pinch pots together. However, often larger pots were made using a combination of pinching and another technique.

There is a long tradition of combining pinching with coiling. And there is evidence of this technique all over the world, dating back many thousands of years.

It’s often assumed that ancient pottery was made exclusively using the coiling technique. And there is a lot to indicate that coiling was probably the dominant method.

However, archeologists have found evidence of pinching being combined with coiling as far back as the Bronze Age. For example, pinching and coiling were used in the Early Bronze age in Moravia Czechia. And a combination of slab, coiling, and pinching was used in Hungary in the Middle bronze age. (source)

Regional Differences

There are some similarities and differences between the way pinch pots are made in different regions. Here are a few comparisons…

British Pinch Pots

One example of the technique of combining pinching with coiling to make a larger vessel is Grooved Ware pottery. Grooved ware pottery was made in Neolithic Britain by flattening a ball of raw clay onto a mat.

The edges of the base were then pinched up to create the start of the vessel wall. Coils of clay were then added to the wall to build up height. The coils were compressed onto the vessel and then pinched upwards to extend the pot.

This pottery was called Grooved Ware because it was often scored with grooves as decoration.

How To Make Prehistoric Pottery | Stone Age Technology

Grooved Ware typically had a flat base and was straight-walled. However, the combination of pinching and coiling has been widely used around the world. And each region developed its own characteristic style and technique.

Japanese Pinch Pots

For example, Blandino, B (1984) describes what she called the extended pinch method. This was used in the Kyushu Province, Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries. A lump of clay was flattened between the palms of the hand. Then pressed against the lip of the vessel being built. The added lump of clay overlapped a bit onto the rim so that it would bond well. Then it was pinched upwards to add height.

Egyptian Pinch Pots

There is also evidence of pinch pottery being made as far back as 3000BC in Egypt. (Halls, S. 2014) The pots were often made out of clay from the Nile, or desert Marl Clay.

This ancient Egyptian pottery was made by scooping out the inside of a lump of clay. The clay was then pinched to thin the vessel walls. Some of these pinched pots from the Naqada period (4000-3000BC) were very thin-walled and refined in appearance.

Native American Pinch Pots

Many Native American tribes hand-built their pottery using a combination of coiling and pinching. Often the base of the vessel was made with a slab of clay. The walls of the base are then pinched upwards to form the shallow base of the pot. Additional coils are then added on and pinched into shape.

Final Thoughts

This article was a collection of information that I’ve discovered about pinch pots over the years. A complete pinch pot history would be a huge publication. There is evidence of pinch pots everywhere for thousands of years. I hope this article has given you some sense of the diversity of its importance and influence. It’s nice to bear that in mind when you are handling clay and carrying on such an ancient tradition.

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Now, let's dive into the information related to pinch pots and pottery history mentioned in this article.

Pinch Pot History

Pinch pots are one of the oldest methods of making pottery, and there is evidence that their history dates back many thousands of years. The simplicity of the pinch pot technique has survived over the millennia, connecting us to the past.

Origins of Pottery

Pottery is believed to have first begun around 20,000 years ago in China. Sherds of pottery dating back this long have been found in the Xianrendong Cave in eastern China, which was known to have been inhabited by people at that time. There is also evidence of pottery dating back 10-16,000 years in Russia, specifically on the Russian side of the Amur River.

In the Western world, evidence of functional pottery dates back to around 9000 years ago. The exact origins of the potter's wheel are still debated among scholars, with some suggesting it was invented in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) around 3129 BC, while others argue it was first used in South Asia around 3500 CE. However, pottery was being made using various hand-building techniques, including pinch pots, before the introduction of the potter's wheel.

Pinch Pot Technique

The pinch pot technique involves shaping a piece of clay into a ball and then pressing your thumb into the ball of clay, pinching the clay with your finger and thumb. This pinching action opens up the clay into a vessel shape. Some ancient pots were made entirely using the pinch pot technique, while others were made using a combination of other hand-building methods.

Small Pinch Pots

Small pots can easily be made using the pinch pot technique. The Japanese Tea Bowl, for example, has a long history stretching back to the 13th century and can be made using various techniques. While some Japanese Tea Bowls are thrown on the wheel or carved out of clay, many ancient ones were made using the pinch pot technique.

Larger Pinch Pots

Larger pots can be made by joining two smaller pinch pots together, but often larger pots were made using a combination of pinching and another technique, such as coiling. There is evidence of pinching being combined with coiling as far back as the Bronze Age, with examples found in Moravia, Czechia, and Hungary.

Regional Differences

Different regions have developed their own characteristic styles and techniques for making pinch pots. For example, in Neolithic Britain, the Grooved Ware pottery was made by combining pinching with coiling. The base of the vessel was flattened clay, and the edges were pinched up to create the start of the vessel wall. Coils of clay were then added to build up height.

In Japan, the extended pinch method was used in the Kyushu Province during the 16th and 17th centuries. A lump of clay was flattened between the palms of the hand and then pressed against the lip of the vessel being built. The added lump of clay overlapped onto the rim and was pinched upwards to add height.

Pinch pottery has also been found in ancient Egypt, dating back as far as 3000 BC. The pots were often made from clay sourced from the Nile or desert Marl Clay. The inside of a lump of clay was scooped out, and the walls of the vessel were thinned by pinching.

Many Native American tribes hand-built their pottery using a combination of coiling and pinching. The base of the vessel was often made with a slab of clay, and the walls were pinched upwards to form the shape of the pot.

In conclusion, pinch pots have a rich history that spans thousands of years and can be found in various regions around the world. The technique of pinching clay to create vessels has been used alongside other hand-building methods and has evolved into distinct styles and techniques in different cultures.

I hope this information provides you with a sense of the diversity and importance of pinch pots throughout history. If you have any more questions or need further information, feel free to ask!

Pinch Pot History – A History of Pinch Pots Over the Years (2024)

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