Potter's wheel

From Academic Kids

The potter's wheel is a horizontal wheel or turntable used in the making of many types of pottery.

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classic potter's wheel in Erfurt, Germany
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A potter molds pottery with his hands while operating the mechanical potter's wheel with his foot, 1902


The exact time and place of the first development of the potter's wheel is uncertain. Suggested dates range from as early as the 6th millennium BC to the as late as the 24th century BC. Many modern scholars suggest development in Mesopotamia, although Egypt and China have also been claimed as the potter's wheel's place of origin.

In any case, use became widespread in the early civilizations of the Bronze age.

The earliest versions of the wheel were simply turned slowly by hand or foot while coiling a pot. Later developments allowed the wheel to keep rotating as a flywheel, allowing more symmetrical pots to be more swiftly formed.

By the Iron age a variation had developed with a turntable about a meter above the floor, connected by a long axle to a heavy lower wheel on the ground. This allowed the potter to keep the wheel in rotation by kicking it with his or her foot, leaving both hands completely free for molding the pot.

The potter's wheel became commonly known throughout the Old World, but was unknown in the New World in Pre-Columbian times; all American Indian pottery before the arrival of the Europeans was made without use of the wheel.

Since the Industrial Revolution, motor driven potter's wheels have become common, although human powered ones are still in use. Motorization does not significantly change the amount of skill needed to use a potter's wheel. The wheel is much more difficult to use and to master fully than other ceramic techniques such as the pinched pot or coils.

The potter's wheel in myth and legend

In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the god Chnum was said to have formed the first humans on a potter's wheel.



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