Recreationist ceramics: Punic skylights
Fig. 1. Reproductions of Punic lamps with two peaks in raw
Last Friday, May 22, we held the first recreation ceramics class in the Terralfar workshop and it has been a very didactic and pleasant experience. The theme of this two-session course is Punic ceramics , specifically we focus on the gathered-rim lanterns of Phoenician origin and the fine ceramic bowls of the kuass type.
These types of activities that could be described as experimental archeology are extremely enriching. They start from specialized bibliographical documentation and try to approach the reproduction of those ways of manufacturing objects. For the potter, devoting time to scientific reading about the way of working of his ancient predecessors, putting those techniques into practice and bringing those ancestral geometries back to the present, is a deeply edifying privilege. More if possible because it will not be something that you enjoy individually, but rather it leads you towards dissemination, well accompanied by those students who are eager to learn as much as it can contribute to them.
Fig. 2. Drawings of Punic skylights from La Pancha (Málaga)
In the Punic period, the potter's wheel was already fully integrated into ceramic processes in the territories where the Carthaginian mercantile empire was present, having previously been introduced by the Phoenicians. There were pottery centers linked to third industries, such as olive oil, helping as packaging, as is the case of Kuass (near Tetuán), where all the production of small pieces, such as bowls, was carried out on a wheel . . That is why this workshop consists primarily of making parts using this old machine. For a second session, we will dedicate ourselves to decorations with slips and floral stamps according to the techniques of the time applied to documented archaeological remains.
All the pieces produced in and for this workshop become the property of the students so that they can carry out their recreations in a more complete way. Now, also with a deeper and more practical knowledge about its preparation. And, if the course has been successful, with the basic knowledge to be able to make the simplest pieces on your own in the future.
Fig. 3. Drawings of decorative floral seals from Punic bowls
On the other hand, regarding the designs of the Punic skylights that we are studying and reproducing, both simple and with double wicks, they illustrate what anachronistically we could consider « good design », but from three millennia ago. This small license for analysis allows us to observe the following points. 1. That as a product it has an innovative geometry compared to its predecessors —see the Egyptian skylight—. 2. That it is fully functional. 3. That due to its aesthetics it is an elegant object in its sobriety. 4. Which is perfectly understandable for the user of this type of lighting. 5. That he is honest, because he does not promise more than what he offers. 6. That he is very discreet. 7. That it is long-lived, especially in the case of a version whose use lasted centuries and has survived to the present as an archaeological piece —can we consider this circularity?—. 8. That it is consistent in its details, minimal in this case. 9. That it is made of sustainable materials, just like ceramics without low-temperature glazes. 10. And that it is simple, design in its minimum expression. That is, there is nothing left over. Less is more, as the German designer Dieter Rams would say.
Because, ultimately, a product that has had a life span of hundreds of years can surely teach us a lot about design.
 Ponsich, M. (1968). Pottery from the Phoenician and Punic-Mauritanian times in Kuass. Saguntum , 4, 3-25.
Figure 1. Own photograph taken in Terralfar's workshop in Mérida (2022).
Figure 2. Martín Córdoba, E. et al. (2006). Phoenician-Punic pottery production on the Vélez-Málaga coast (8th-5th centuries BC). Mainake , 28, 257-287.
Figure 3. Ponsich, M. (1968). Pottery from the Phoenician and Punic-Mauritanian times in Kuass. Saguntum , 4, 3-25.