World History

The Magic of Faience

ceramic bowls

San Diego Culture

Mehrgahr Blooms

Faience Invented

Making Magic

The Magic of Faience

The Magic of Faience

In 5500 B.C., TGD and biblical history dates are approximating, but they haven’t connected yet.

San Diego Culture

Southern California was settled by people of the Encinitas culture. Grinding stones and shells suggest marine and farming activities. It would endure until 1000 B.C. in the San Diego area.

Mehrgahr Blooms

Mehrgahr (Pakistan) has entered its greatest age, which will last 2000 years! Pottery was in use. Faience has appeared, perhaps originally from the Near East in trade. Manufacturing has blossomed. Creativity is invested in new crafting techniques: both arts and manufacturing. Long-distance trade developed further.

Specific technologies included updraft and large pit kilns, and copper crucibles.

In the arts, faience beads were made, which may have represented money as well as useful beauty. We do not know that. But the later use of wampum in North America puts the idea in my mind.

The first “button” seals, manufactured from terracotta and bone, used geometric patterns.

Terracotta figures became more detailed. They were painted and wore a variety of ornaments and hairstyles.

Burials were different throughout the period. Two flexed burials covered with ochre occurred during the early period. The amount of burial goods diminished, eventually consisting only of ornaments, with more left in burials of females. (Strange in what is assumed to be a paternalistic culture!)

Faience Invented

Egypt was still between cultures, but the art of faience was practiced. Quite possibly, it arrived through trade. The Egyptians fell in love with it and greatly developed its manufacture. Egyptian faience is a ceramic art with a silica body and brightly colored glaze.

Do not confuse Egyptian faience with the Italian faience of the Middle Ages. That is a totally different product.

Making Magic

Egyptian faience was made of easily available ingredients:

Quartz: white quartz pebbles were easily found in the desert

Alkaline salts: plant ash or salts of evaporated salt-water

Lime: limestone

Metallic colorant, most popularly copper

The dry ingredients were mixed with water to create a paste that was then formed into the object. Immediately, the faience differed from the clay. It slumped while modeled. It was not flexible. It cracked instead of bending and could not hold its own weight.

That made faience difficult to work with except for small items such as beads, or flat items such as tiles or plates.

Larger items were made in molds or shaped around cores that burned away when fired. And what a fire! Faience required the kiln to be at 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  

The Magic of Faience

Any piece of finished faience has a core that is fragile and porous: quartz grains that seem powdered encased in a soda-line-silicate glass. This glass is transparent.

But looking through the glaze gives a magical effect. Light reflects off of the quartz in all directions. The result is seen as translucency with brightness in a variety of shimmering depths.

Faience became associated with magic. Religiously, the shimmer reminded Egyptians of sunshine rays and therefore the god Ra. The favored bright blue color made with copper was linked to fertility and rebirth.

It’s no surprise that faience, made of common materials, took its place beside precious stones and metals.

Everyone tried to have at least one shubati, ornament, or house god made of faience. Later, pharaohs used it liberally in pyramid ornamentation and grave goods.

Egyptian faience would maintain its importance for 4000 years.

Source Credit and Suggested Reading:,gleaming%20qualities%20of%20the%20sun.

Photo credit: Mathias Reding on Unsplash