For archaeologists, the remains of pottery found in excavations are a vital source of information about prehistoric peoples. Ceramic culture began in Anatolia around 5000 BC and gradually spread around the world, each period and region developing its distinct characteristics. The pottery of the recent past is as fascinating as that of antiquity, and in Turkey, Canakkale ware, which dates back to the Ottoman period, is a subject of research in its own right. Canakkale ware is quite different in design, color, and form from earlier Turkish wares like Iznik, Kutahya, and Miletus. The area around Canakkale in northwestern Turkey had deposits of fine quality clay, which was used to make all kinds of objects for daily use and domestic articles that were at the same time decorative. Plates, jars, jugs, vases, cups, water bottles, candlesticks, lamps in the shape of ships, bowls and many other objects were made; all displaying a creative use of color and form. The clay used to make pottery in the Canakkale region for many centuries was deposited in river beds as a result of erosion, floods and alluvial silting. Two types of clay are found in the region, potters preferring the finer quality of red clay which contains a high level of iron and produces the best results. The second type, which is paler in color, results in poorer quality pottery which is more brittle.
Three principal techniques are used to make this pottery: the potter’s wheel, the coil strip method, and molding. The potter’s wheel turns on a shaft and is rotated by a foot pedal, so employing centrifugal force to shape circular vessels. In the coil strip method, the potter makes rope-like lengths or strips of clay and coils them around a mold, forming a basket weave effect. The third method involves making a preparatory plaster mold of the required shape and then using this to make the casting molds. Into these are poured clay or other ceramic substance mixed to a fluid consistency. When dried the mold is removed. Ottoman period Canakkale ceramics consist largely of small sized pieces, generally characterized by underglaze decoration over a white or cream-colored slip and a transparent glaze.
Slip is still used to cover the Canakkale ware made today, and most pieces are fired for the second time after the glaze is applied. In the 18th century unglazed, single-fired pieces were also produced. Canakkale ceramics, which are now sought after around the world, are often fired in modern electric kilns today, but some traditional workshops continue to use the old wood-fired kilns. In the latter the articles turned on a wheel are dried in the open air by the sun before firing. In modern workshops and factories, they are dried indoors and fired at varying temperatures in automatically adjustable kilns according to the type of form and glaze. Glazing is an important part of the process, involving covering the ware with a glass-like layer. This prevents the liquids they contain from being absorbed by the clay body of the vessel. Glazing techniques have changed little over the centuries, the main raw material of glazes being sand, to which lead or zinc are added to facilitate the melting process. Metal oxides are sometimes added to the glaze to lend it color, and water to increase its fluidity. Lead glazes are the most common type used on Canakkale ware and may be either transparent or opaque colored glaze. In the 19th century, Canakkale ware with monochrome glaze was often decorated with relief flowers, rosettes, and other applies designs. Jugs with protruding lips, sometimes in the form of birds’ beaks or horse heads, became popular. The ‘horse’ jugs have globular bodies and narrow necks, plain handles and spouts in the form of horse heads, a motif thought to derive from mythology. Sometimes the body, too, is in the form of a horse. Most of these pieces have a transparent glaze and applied decoration on the front of the body and neck. In the early 20th century, pieces frequently have bodies in the form of animals or figures, the former again with beak-shaped lips, either small or large, and with globular bodies and narrow necks, and sometimes with a lid. The thick handles are usually twisted, and the color glaze is transparent.
The late period pottery often features overglaze decoration in the form of baroque style floriated designs in earth pigments over a dark brown or green glaze. Painted decoration over the glaze on beak-lidded jugs was occasionally highlighted with gold or silver paint in the late period, when we also find vessels in the form of animals, such as lions, horses, and poultry. Most of these pieces, which have a transparent colorless or colored glaze, have applied relief rosettes and other motifs. These jugs, made for decoration as much as practical use, have bodies in stylized shapes. Each piece of handmade Canakkale ware reflects the individual personality of the potter, and with their striking, unique designs, this type of pottery remains a popular handcraft today.