Prehistoric Spirals: Earthenware from Thailand

Detail of an earthenware pot showing the opening, which is slightly cracked, and the front of which is decorated with a reddish orange pattern of lines in a swirl.
  • Dates


  • Location

    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery | Gallery 29

  • Collection Area

    Southeast Asian Art

Red painted spirals swirl in distinct patterns across the surfaces of these vessels, testifying to the sophisticated material and aesthetic cultures of northeastern Thailand more than two thousand years ago. Their makers belonged to a loose network of settlements specializing in bronze and ceramic production. Tragically, the region has been heavily looted in recent history. The pots, once ritually buried in gravesites as objects of prestige and remembrance, were unearthed recklessly and stripped of their historical context. As a result, little is known about these vessels and the people who made them. Recent research into their materials, techniques, and designs opens new lines of inquiry into the region’s heritage and its profound cultural and material legacy.

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