Home > Ask Our Experts > Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?

Etched Vase: How to Discover its Origins?

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 23 Jun 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Pottery Artefact Reproductions Fake

Q.

I have an old pot/vase I would love some information about. I’ve had it for about 20 years since I found it in the cupboard of some old derelict house I was doing some building work on at the time. It measures 8 inches tall and about 16.5 inches around the base. I believe it’s made from some sort of clay or plaster and is etched with patterns and various imagse such as, pheasants, a deer, squirrels and - what I think looks like - a wild boar!

There’s a fair amount of wear & tear, eroding and discolouring. About ten years ago I took it to a museum in Cambridge to try and get some information on it but they couldn’t tell me much about it and said that they had never seen anything quite like it before. They thought it was made on some sort of lathe but didn’t know if it was old (and it does look incredibly old!) or was something made to look old.

Thank you for your time.

(L.R, 11 May 2009)

A.

Thank you for your question and the attached photo. Your measurements of the item would place this pottery piece in the mid-sized artefacts range but at the small end for vases. Firstly, one must stress that identification of such an object, and especially as to origin, is particularly difficult when one is limited to only a photograph. As you point out, even the museum in Cambridge was unable to enlighten you, and they had the benefit of examining the object first hand.

The reason why it is very difficult to provide a conclusive report on any archaeological artefact, found outside of its discovery context, is manifold.

1. Frauds and Reproductions
Archaeology is fraught with fake artefacts and clever reproductions. Many are so good that professional archaeologists, under laboratory analysis, cannot detect the imposters. Many objects of antiquity are copied, not necessarily to be passed off as originals, but simply so that others can enjoy the ‘look’ of something ancient, rare, or valuable. It is estimated that more than 90% of archaeological artefacts on the market today are fakes.

2. Context is Content
Once an object is removed from its primary discovery location it immediately loses much of its ability to provide content about its purpose, period, and importance. For instance, had you found your vase while digging a water well in your back yard, then much more could be said of it. For example: Other items buried with it or in its immediate vicinity may indicate a time period and even the status of its owners.

3. Analysis and Testing
Although many objects can simply be identified by visual observation, others, such as your vase, will likely need to be analysed in order to verify its material and manufacturing process. Both the materials used in manufacturing, coupled with the process used to make the object, all help toward determining its age and origin.

However, without the actual vase, in hand, and access to analysis equipment it is almost impossible to empirically describe the item.

You say that the vase is ‘etched’ however by limited observation of your supplied photo I believe that the patterns, animals, and emblems are in ‘relief’. Your vase shows shapes with deep relief while etching is a shallow process. My first impression is that the relief work is carved on after the vase has been thrown. I draw this conclusion due to the ‘individual’ manner that each animal is carved in contrast to a ‘cast vase’ whose original mould would most likely have received a great deal more attention and therefore would have produced better images.

Vases of Chinese origin frequently sported animals such as the ones here. They are not usually so deep in relief but more beautiful in form and often embellished with incised patterns. Ancient Greeks painted vases in various forms and colours and their vases form some the most exquisite examples of ancient art. Sadly, your vase is not Greek nor Roman, nor very ancient.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
jim - Your Question:
I have a old pottery mug that needs identification, would you be able to help? thanks James

Our Response:
Sorry but we can't do this kind of thing. The easiest way to establish its origins would be to take it to a museum.
ArchaeologyExpert - 6-Feb-17 @ 10:57 AM
Wondering if you could identify a small amber statue of what i think is a sphinx that was given to my grandfather during WW2 by and old man who used help in the base where my grandfather was Stationed in Egypt and became very good friends with?
Alcoco - 4-Feb-17 @ 3:32 AM
I have a old pottery mug that needs identification, would you be able to help? thanks James
jim - 3-Feb-17 @ 10:43 AM
Respected Sir, What methods and techniques were available to date artifacts as well as ancient civilizations before the coming of Radiocarbon Dating and other modern technologies? (Alternatively how archaeologist and historians date ancient civilizations and artifacts before the advent of Radiocarbon Dating and other modern technologies specially between in 16th to early 20th century ?) Respectfully James. India.
James - 30-Oct-16 @ 3:43 PM
Hello! I have a lot of ancient coins and I would like to sell them, what are the best face can I deal with it?
asuomdiabe - 11-Jul-16 @ 2:30 PM
I would like for some one to answer some questions about some figures found in Mexico
Evey - 24-Feb-16 @ 5:35 AM
I need help in indentifying type and age of these pottery,any help would be appreciated. Thanks
poncey - 28-Nov-15 @ 11:43 PM
I have a historical anatomical picture. I think its written by Avicenna. Could you help me?
Aslan - 28-Mar-15 @ 11:59 PM
I have what appears to be a rare 7th century anglo saxon ring. Could someone contact me so I can send you photos and you could let me know what you think?
pupboy - 26-May-14 @ 7:33 PM
I'm from Tamilnadu, India.I have a great interest in Indian temples especially south Indian Temples, I need to know if there is any field of study that has research of temple in archaeology.
vanathi - 19-May-14 @ 10:50 AM
Hi I need to speak to an expert about possible ancient roman jewellery. Who should I contact?
kimmi31s - 19-Feb-14 @ 7:30 PM
can anyone help me with dating this pot i found in the garden
romeo - 25-Oct-13 @ 12:40 PM
can you please send 3 more pictures of the 3 other sides of the vase. It could be helpfull to read the patterns
prince - 16-Jul-13 @ 7:18 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Sankha
    Re: What Animal Bones Can Tell Us In Archaeology
    How do we know from bones whether an animal was domesticated or not?
    21 November 2017
  • Acchhu
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    Sir im Studying BSC CBZ i want to became an Archeologist so on basis of 2nd puc PCMB and i wish to became…
    19 November 2017
  • Becky
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hello my name is Rebecca Cuevas, I was born in Mississippi and since I can remember I have been digging things up whether it be…
    19 November 2017
  • CuriousForFacts
    Re: Radio Carbon Dating
    Question: How much does modern-day burning at archaeological sites from campfires, cookouts, candle-burning, etc...affect the results of…
    13 November 2017
  • Timothy
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I'm completed masters in archaeology. And I 'm already participate in one excavation. I really intrested to work as a volunteer in…
    5 November 2017
  • Pooja
    Re: Academic Qualifications to Be An Archaeologist
    Sir how do we work in a foreign country as archaeologists exmaple..,USA
    22 October 2017
  • arman
    Re: Geophysical Surveys
    I found ancient creatures that include fossils, paintings and rock paintings, and their three-dimensional design, which, according to their…
    20 October 2017
  • SimSam
    Re: Gender Archaeology
    The article "archaeology and the study of gender" by Margaret W. Conkey and Janet D. Spector is a marvellous read on the theme of gender in…
    17 October 2017
  • Dick
    Re: Shinichi Fujimura
    I found a buried artifacts made by a human ashes, a massive cremation of human body during either Spanish or Japanese occupation . Those…
    9 October 2017
  • Jason
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I found a, what seems like clay, pot with a little spout near a dried up canal and was wondering how old it was and if it is worth anything. If…
    2 October 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the ArchaeologyExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.