Wednesday 26 May 2010

Ancient Firing Technology

Most books one reads talk about 'bonfire firing'; fast open firings using large quantities of wood and accepting a quite high percentage of loss. But it's my belief that large open outdoor fires would have been used only for very large pots and even then the fire would have been very carefully controlled. People in subsistence economies do not waste fuel resources or their own labour. Most beakers would have been made in the house while sitting around the fire, they would then have been placed on the perimeter of the hearth and left there for several days, turning them occasionally, until they were absolutely dry. The pot would then be moved closer to the fire to begin preheating. Fine pots like beakers require a relatively slow firing and the best way to start is to invert the pot with its rim on three small stones over a small amount of hot charcoal, replenishing this until the pot reached about 400C; with most natural clays this will be indicated by a visible darkening of the body. At this stage hot charcoal can be built up around the pot and after a further few minutes small kindling added and the pot fired up to red heat, best seen in the darkness of a hut interior.

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