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Jar, c. 2600-2300 BCE
Earthenware with painted decoration
12 3/4 x 17 inches (32.4 x 43.2 cm)
Gift of Horace H. F. Jayne, 1926
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Looking Questions

  • What do you think this jar is made of? Why?
  • How do you think it was made?
  • What might this object have been used for?
  • What shapes make up the design?
  • What gives the design its feeling of movement?

Research Activity: Neolithic Vessels from Japan

During the Neolithic period in Japan, people made and used Jōmon jars, which were known for their dynamic designs and lively details. The term Jōmon means "cord-marked" and refers to the cord-like designs that decorate the jar. Research Jōmon jars and compare and contrast Chinese and Japanese Neolithic vessels in terms of form, decoration, and technique.


Art Project: Coil Jar

Roll pieces of clay into long, cord-shaped strands. Create the bottom of the vessel by wrapping these strands into a tight spiral. Begin building the jar from the bottom using small coils, adding successively larger ones as you move to the waist. At the waist, begin gradually reducing the length of the coils, narrowing the vessel to create the mouth. Smooth the inner and outer surfaces with your fingers. If you use air-dry clay, add a design with acrylic paint. If you have a kiln, use glazes to apply designs on the clay and then fire the jar.

Group Project: Shapes of Vessels

This 4,000-year-old jar was probably used to store and carry water or food. How does the shape of a vessel tell us about its use? Have students sketch five different shapes of ceramic vessels from home (flowerpots, plates, cups, sinks, bathtubs, etc.) and bring them to class. Divide students into small groups and discuss the shapes and functions of the vessels they sketched. Discuss why each shape works well for its task.

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