The art of pottery is representative of the majority of the world cultures, expressing their development and civilizations. Pottery, though the simplest form of art, is actually the hardest form of craftsmanship. It is the simplest because it has a primary nature and is most common among the public. Yet, it is the hardest due to its abstractness. Pottery has been familiar to the Egyptians since prehistoric time and the beginning of the presence of Egyptians in the Nile Valley and Delta. In the absence of written texts, archaeologists could chronicle times and cultures through pottery, its styles, and decoration.
The earliest pottery was manually made of mud and then sun dried. Following the discovery of fire, they were incinerated to be more solid and to last longer. In the Old Kingdom, Egyptians invented the pottery wheel that was run by the left hand, while the pottery was being formed by the right hand.
During the early times of the Egyptian civilization, pottery was typically decorated with animal and complex shapes, as well as colored geometric, plant, and animal ornamentations. Since the Fourth Dynasty, little interest was given to decoration and pottery became more ordinary for daily use.
Since pottery ware is permeable, artists tended to use glass ornamentation to produce what is known as the Egyptian ceramics. They were made by the addition of silicon sand and a transparent glassy coat and were preferably painted in blue and green. Then in the New Kingdom, pottery was given little attention, replaced by the glassy-ornamented wares that lasted through the Ptolemaic and Roman times.
It was during the Fatimid era that porcelain manufacture flourished. On the Fatimid porcelain vessels, there were fantastic drawings of human figures, birds, animals, plant, and geometric ornamentation and the well-done Kufi calligraphy, in addition to dancing, music, and hunting scenes. Also shown were certain social, daily activities such as singlestick fencing, wrestling, and cockfights.
In Egypt, cups, pots, clay vessels, plates, and other pottery were manufactured and painted with colors changeable with light falling upon them. This craftsmanship received more attention in the Islamic State during the Ayyubid era, thus was born the Ayyubid porcelain. That new type of porcelain was known for its soft clay, the fantastic glassy decoration, a green background, black ornaments, and wonderful plant, bird, and animal drawings.
In the Mamluk era, porcelain had drawings of animals lying on a surface of a nature-like plant decoration painted in black and blue beneath a transparent glassy coat, showing the effect of the Iranian art, with ornamentation such as the dragon and phoenix. The Egyptian porcelain-making industry declined after the Ottoman Turkish conquest in 1517 AD, when Egypt imported large quantities of Chinese porcelain from Asia Minor.