All posts are copyright Barbara Rogers 2018. Please ask if you wish to share, and give attribution to the author.My ancestry and more personal notes are now at a revised version of "When I Was 75."

Friday, March 4, 2016

Primitive pottery carries water

Sepia Saturday for this week:

A public fountain in Queretaro, Mexico. Wheelbarrows that look like a left-over prop from the Flintstones carrying pottery jars that would not be out of place on an archaeological dig. And let us not forget the hats that look a little like traffic cones. There are a number of potential themes you might want to highlight in this week's Sepia Saturday theme image (which comes from the Flickr stream of Cornell University). All you need to do is to post an old image and some new thoughts on or around Saturday 5th March 2016 and then add a link to the list below.
 With this photo my contribution for this week follows:

Say you lived where there was no running water.  If you've ever camped out in the woods, you may have experienced this.  Or maybe you visited your sister who was part of the 70's "back to the land" movement and lived in a cabin on a mountain in the backwoods of Tennessee.  That cabin had no electricity or running water.  So we all shared the job of carrying a couple of buckets upstream on the creek to get the water for everything the occupants needed it for.  Not for flushing, because there was that great hole in the ground with a little shed on top of it where we could close the door with the crescent moon on it.

But back to the water jugs.

They are very important to the lives of people who live without water piped to their homes.  And all across the world, they tend to be the same shape.  Get the water inside the jug, and then carry it without splashing!

A woman making pottery in Funjoho, Africa

Not your everyday water jugs - ceremonial probably

Carrying jugs without water in them!

Zulu pottery video (10 minutes)
Published on Mar 25, 2014
This is a brief video of the coiling technique used by the Zulu potter Gogo (Grandmother) Miya in the Mnweni area of the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. Interviewers include Christopher Roy, Gavin Whitelaw, Justine Wintjes, Lawrence Msimanga.

Pottery Traditions of India (6 min)
Published on Jan 27, 2013
See for more details.
'Pottery Traditions of India' is an independently produced DVD made by potter Jane Perryman and her colleague Indru Bhatia. Recorded between 1996-99 documenting pottery and clay traditions from different areas of India (part two of the DVD shown).

One of the problems with showing pottery-making in these traditional ways, is that few people are still doing that.  Most people who still carry water now use buckets...or those great big plastic canisters with a screw-on top.  These pottery water jugs are fast becoming antiques.


  1. Interesting point about the passing of ye old water jug. But seriously, Barb, I thought for sure you'd show us your pottery! (That's not meant as a criticism of this post.)

  2. A wonderful post! It's sad to see these crafts disappearing but if I was toting water long distances, I'd choose the lightweight plastic every time.

  3. The African pottery is gorgeous. I have to agree that if I was forced to carry water, I'd do it in plastic too. You wonder what sort of
    problems the carriers have from the compression of the spine carrying that weight. Nice posture though.

  4. I have camped in the backwoods and one trip in Washington, my husband went to the stream to get water in the cooking pot. He got back to the site and spilled the water. As I recall, when he grabbed the handle that swiveled to put it on the stove, the pot of water would swivel and dump the contents out. This happened 3 times before the transfer was successful.

  5. Very interesting. I can only imagine how heavy those jugs must be when filled with water. As you know, I love pottery. While we have lots of decorative pottery, I especially love the pottery that we use for serving, having soup, or tea, etc.

  6. Very interesting, although I too thought you would have a few f your own vessels to show us. We visited my sister when she lived not in the backwoods but on a small boat, and the facilities there were pretty basic. I imagine the heads were flushed with sea water, not precious drinking water.

  7. How did I know you'd be following a pottery theme? :) Well done & very interesting!

  8. I guess the shape of water jugs has a lot to do with avoiding splashing.

  9. Pottery vessels are so much more attractive and healthier too, than plastic canisters. Naturally also much heavier. Generally today in certain regions people carry plastic canisters, especially if children are involved to carry water. To make pots from clay is such an ancient craft. I hope it always stays alive.

  10. Well...I didn't know what grog was, so that was really interesting. Boy I take a lot for granted in my life.

  11. Yes, the ceramic water jugs are going by the wayside, sadly. They were beautiful and they helped keep the water cool. But their drawbacks were that they added weight when the water was already heavy, and they were breakable. When we were in El Salvador 40 years ago they used both metal and plastic jugs. I love the beauty of pottery jugs, sometimes from being burnished, and always from being fired in an outdoor kiln.
    --Nancy. (ndmessier @,

  12. It’s good to be reminded of the old arts, and ways of collecting water, but I think we all agree that we are lucky to live in an age of plastic. No plastic vessel could ever be so beautiful as the ceremonial pots - or could it?

  13. I was also hoping to see some of your pottery, but enjoyed your post. So much personality and beauty in those jugs but unfortunately plastic is more practical.


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