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Contributed by Turathuna Bethlehem University on 07.11.2006:

In the villages, pottery vessels were traditionally handmade by women. The potter’s wheel was used only in the towns, where men were the potters, producing a different sort of functional pottery for the market. The women of the villages of the Sinjil, Beituna and Ramallah were known for their intricately decorated jars, having learned the craft from their mothers and grandmothers. They made functional, unglazed forms from local low-fired clays.

The pottery – making seasons started in late spring when the weather allowed a through drying of the vessels and when enough dried brush and branches could be collected for the firing pit. Women potters did a great deal of a strenuous work digging for and preparing the clay. They would first grind the clay rocks with heavy stone rollers, and then fit, weigh and add the correct ratio of other clay additives such as straw, sand and grog. The latter was made of powdered pottery shreds collected from nearby archaeological sites. These added materials were meant to improve the porosity and fire-resistance of the clay. The mixture was then kneaded thoroughly adding the necessary amount of water to improve its workability. At this stage, the young women in the family gave a helping hand, but once the actual forming of the pot started, the skilled potter worked alone. The work, which was done in the courtyard, proceeded in several stages: large slabs were gradually added, then the inside and outside surfaces of he vessels were smoothed with a mashshakah, a tool made of wood or shaped from an old pot fragment .each time a few slab layers were added, the pot was left in the sun to dry so as to withstand the additional weigh of the next layer.

At the leather-hard stage, the finished pot was coated on the outside with a light colored slip, preparing the background for the painted decoration.

Source: Amiry, Suad and Tamari, Vera: The Palestinian Village Home, 1989.

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