Bisila Noha Ceramics
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Travels, experiments and explorations.

#myclaydiaries - Armenian Medieval Pottery

During Medieval times, Armenian pottery flourished thanks to the high-quality Armenian clay, and was famous both in the country and beyond.

When looking for Armenian ceramics before coming to Yerevan, it was quite tricky to find information and references about the practices in the country, especially nowadays; everything would take me to Jerusalem, mainly. 

Once here, I have had access to the most fantastic books and museums and I have been able to learn about the origins of the Armenian pottery tradition - one affected by the country's troublesome history. 

Located between East and West, Armenia was in the middle of the Silk Road, which enriched its traditions and crafts. Dvin and Ani were two important hubs in the Road, famous for their pottery and crafts in general. 

Dvin was one of the stations of the Road, where six different routes would start: Persian Gulf and India, Jerusalem and Egypt, Constantinople and Rome and Tiflis and Black Sea. During the 5th century, it was a large economic, political, cultural and spiritual center considered by some historiographers as the Great Capital - a prosperous city of crafts and goods. 

Ani was once the capital of Armenia, and during the 11th century a hub for commercial, economic and social relations with numerous cities in East and West, like Dvin.

Both, sadly though, saw their activities hindered by earthquakes, seizures and massacres, to both end up being conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century and either become an regular settlement like in the case of Dvin, or completely destroyed like in Ani's case.

Among all the pieces made during Medieval times, I quite like the Karas. These were vessels with ornament bands - a special group in the pottery of medieval Armenia. 

They are low vessels, with globular bodies and thick walls. They would either have stylised zoomorphic handles or no handles at all. Normally painted in red and polished after the firing, they were decorated in the center with continuous recurring motifs. 

The Images stamped on them could be of animals, people, trees of life, ritual dances, or geometric ornaments, etc. By and large, they would be symbols connected with folk perceptions and ideas on fertility and abundance. They were broadly produced between the 10th and 12th centuries in medieval Armenia, mainly in Dvin and Ani, but also in other places like Garni and Armavir.