Ancient Egyptian Pottery: Uses and Symbolic Meaning

Ancient Egyptian pottery was produced by the ancient Egyptians from 5000 BC. The sculptures produced were both highly stylized and symbolic. Most of the earliest ceramic vessels and clay seal impressions were found in tombs. Many of the symbols or hieroglyphs found carved or painted on pieces emphasize life after death and the preservation of knowledge of the past.

Pottery from that time was used in much the same way that we use modern kitchen containers today. The quality was very fine and was generally made by women without the use of a potter’s wheel. The pottery would have been fired in primitive kilns or on open fires, as they certainly didn’t have modern gas or electric kilns back then. Until the dynastic period, pottery was painted by hand with images of animals, patterns, ships, and human figures.

Symbols, in the form of humans, animals, or objects, were part of a formal writing system that contained a combination of logographic and alphabetic elements. There are more than 700 symbols and Ancient Egypt was one of the first literate societies. They used the symbols to convey information in the same way that property and production marks are used on ceramics and other items today.

One of the most famous symbols found in ancient Egyptian pottery and arts is still used today. The Ankh is the symbol of eternal life and today the symbol is used as a Christian cross. There are many images that represent the gods holding an Ankh to someone’s lips, which consists of an offering of “The Breath of Life”, the breath that you will need in the afterlife. The symbol looks like the Christian cross we see today, except that the top is a rounded shape that looks like a one-legged stick person.

The Eye of Horus, originally called Wedjat or Oudjat, is another easily recognizable symbol found in many Egyptian ceramics and art. Horus was represented as the falcon-headed god, he was an important god in Egyptian legend. The symbol, which is the human eye and eyebrow, represents protection, health and prosperity. The ancient Egyptians believed that this symbol had a very powerful and magical effect in restoring harmony in the unstable world and restoring bad deeds. Some of the symbols used in ancient art often have more than one meaning, and with many myths and stories behind each one, it is almost impossible to be completely sure of the origins of the symbols.