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> RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CUCUTENI POTTERY

 

One of the most special creations of the Cucuteni culture was the painted pottery. With its slender shapes and decorative motifs, the Cucuteni ceramics represents the apogee of the European prehistoric pottery, being often compared with the creations of other historical ages.

The reconstitruction of the Cucuteni pottery is one of our most important aims. Either hand made or with a slow wheel, the ceramics needed many techniques which we tried to discover, and we faced many problems due to the high technical performances attained by the potters. Taking into account this complexity of techniques, we thought to start with only one, that of clay twists. We also decided to use the incision technique to decorate the pots and the burning technique in the open pit.

The first stage in reconstructing the pottery was the identification of the clay sources. The great number of the items discovered in the Cucuteni settlements made us think that the clay could be found near them and it was easy to be carried. This assumption has been confirmed when the surroundings were studied and on approximately 3 km round Cucuteni we discovered over 20 possible sources of clay. We have found the same situation near the future rebuilt village, identifying 5 sources of clay.

After the clay had been extracted and transported, we prepared the composition. At first, the clay was cleaned of little stones, earth, organic matter and then it was crumbed and dipped so all the particles would mix very well. After that the paste was trampled and kneaded with the hands until the paste resembled to dough. To smash even the smallest particles, in the end the paste had to be beaten with the rammer.

The first operation is that of making the twists. The clay is rolled in palms or on a wooden surface and the size of the twists depends on the thickness of the vase walls we want to make. The bottom of the pot is first made and then the twists are placed one above the other. The edges of the twists are stretched until they merge and then the walls are smoothed with a wooden tool.

One of the most special problems of the Cucuteni ceramics was the raising of big pots. To give resistance to the walls, these pots had to be made in different stages, raising and drying them gradually. The upper brim was kept wet for a better hold of the next twist. Sometimes the walls were prompted with a few wooden rods, exactly as we did with a big pot.

Then the pots were left to dry, usually in a shadowy place to avoid the cracking of the clay, somewhere inside without drafts that would make the dry uneven. The time needed differed according to the size and thickness of the pots.

After being dried, the pottery had to be burnt in an open pit having a diameter of 1 m and 0,50 m depth. Before the pots were arranged in the pit, we had made a powerful fire to produce embers. Then the bottom of the pit was cleared pushing the embers aside, we put the pots and the other clay objects (statuettes, weights for the loom, little tables, etc) in the middle and covered them with the embers. Then, for approximately 10 hours we have kept the fire near the walls of the pit, so that it wouldn’t burn directly on the clay objects and cause them cracks.
Dupa ce vasele au fost arse, le-am lasat în groapa, pentru a se raci treptat, scoaterea lor efectuându-se dupa mai bine de 15 ore de la terminarea arderii. Verificarea calitatii arderii s-a facut prin umplerea vaselor cu apa, nici unul dintre ele nefiind fisurat.
When this was over, we let the pots in the pit to cool gradually. They were taken out after 15 hours. We checked them if they were properly burned by filling them with water and they were flawless.

Obviously the experimnet of recreating the pottery from Cucuteni was just the beginning of the project, other pots were to be made using different techniques such as that of burning them in ovens with one or two rooms.


 

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