Ancient Egyptian Pottery – Uses and Symbolic Meaning

Ancient Egyptian Pottery was produced by the ancient Egyptians from as early as 5000 BC. The sculptures produced were both highly stylized and symbolic. Most of the early pottery vessels and clay seal impressions were found in tombs. Many of the symbols or hieroglyphics found carved or painted on pieces have an emphasis on life after death and the preservation of knowledge of the past.

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

The 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 over 700 symbols and Ancient Egypt was one of the earliest literate societies. They used the symbols to convey information the same way ownership and production marks are used on pottery and other items today.

One of the most famous symbols found on ancient Egyptian pottery and other art is still being used today. The Ankh is the symbol of eternal life and today the symbol is being used as a Christian cross. There are many images depicting the gods holding an Ankh to someone’s lips, which is consisted to be an offering of “The Breath of Life”, the breath you will need in the afterlife. The symbol looks similar to the Christian cross we see today except the top part is a rounded looking like a one legged stick person.

The Eye of Horus, originally called the Wedjat or Oudjat, is another easily recognised symbol found on many Egyptian pottery and art. Horus was represented as the falcon-headed god, was an important god in Egyptian legend. The symbol, which is human eye and eyebrow, stands for protection, health and prosperity. The ancient Egyptians believed that this symbol had a very powerful and magical effect on restoring harmony to the unstabilised world and restoring wrong doings. Some of the symbols used in ancient art often carry more than one meaning, and with many myths and stories behind each one, it is near on impossible to be completely sure of the symbols origins.