A thousand-year-old pottery tradition

Potters in Masbagik, east of the island of Bali, continue a pottery tradition that is said to be a thousand years old. This would be an interesting subject for an ethnoarchaeological study – one of my colleagues is investigating the pottery making traditions from a certain region in East Malaysia, where the produced pottery forms have endured for 3,000 years!

History told in terracotta
Jakarta Post, 07 August 2009

There is a small Sasak village where progress has been assessed and found wanting; a village where horse and cart are deemed the most reliable form of transportation, where electricity use has never passed the occasional single white neon, where computers have yet to be found useful and cell phones a rarity.

Each day follows the one before with a habitual rhythm, a melody passed from old women’s hands to their granddaughters, truncating village history to the life span of the matriarchs.

Without any written language, this village has a memory spanning just seven decades, yet the unchanging handicrafts sitting in museums tell of Masbagik Timor’s millennium-long history as a potter’s village.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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