How to Make an Unfired Clay Cooking Pot: Understanding the Technological Choices made by Arctic Potters

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Between about 500 A.D. and the late nineteenth century, clay cooking pots associated with the Thule culture were produced in the Arctic region. Ethnographic and archaeological records indicate that these vessels were typically underfired (often even unfired), highly porous, and easily broken. Despite these characteristics, the evidence indicates that they were used to heat water over open fires. In this paper, we examine how Arctic potters were able to produce unsintered vessels capable of holding liquids without disintegrating. We conclude that the application of seal oil and seal blood to the pot’s surface was the key to their success.


Arctic; Arctic peoples; Blood; Ceramic technology; Ceramics; Experimental archaeology; Industries; Primitive; Marine animal oils; Pottery; Prehistoric; Seals (Animals); Traditional technologies


Archaeological Anthropology | Ceramic Materials | Manufacturing | Mechanics of Materials


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