The Age of Gallienus
Ancient Coin Collecting 101
Ancient Coin Dates
Ancient Coins & Modern Fakes
Ancient Oil Lamps
Ancient Wages and Prices
Ancient Weights and Scales
Anonymous Class A Folles
Armenian Numismatics Page
A Cabinet of Greek Coins
Caesarean and Actian Eras
Campgates of Constantine
A Case of Counterfeits
Coins of Pontius Pilate
Conditions of Manufacture
Corinth Coins and Cults
Countermarked in Late Antiquity
Denarii of Otho
Dictionary of Roman Coins
Doug Smith's Ancient Coins
Edict on Prices
ERIC - Rarity Tables
The Evolving Ancient Coin Market
Facing Portrait of Augustus
Fel Temp Reparatio
Fertility Pregnancy and Childbirth
Friend or Foe
The Gallic Empire
Greek Coin Denominations
Greek Mythology Link
Greek Numismatic Dictionary
Hellenistic Names & their Meanings
Helvetica's ID Help Page
Identifying Ancient Metal Arrowheads
Illustrated Ancient Coin Glossary
Islamic Rulers and Dynasties
Imperial Mints of Philip the Arab
Later Roman Coinage
Library of Ancient Coinage
Life in Ancient Rome
Maps of the Ancient World
Not in RIC
Numismatic Excellence Award
Pi-Style Athens Tetradrachms
Pricing and Grading Roman Coins
Representations of Alexander the Great
Roman Coin Attribution 101
Rome and China
The Sign that Changed the World
Silver Content of Parthian Drachms
Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum
Taras Drachms with Owl Left
The Temple Tax Hoard
Travels of Paul
Tribute Penny Debate Continued (2015)
Tribute Penny Debate Revisited (2006)
What Did The Julio Claudians Really Look Like?
What I Like About Ancient Coins
Used with permission from "Artifacts of Ancient Civilizations" by Alex G. Malloy, updated by Joseph Sermarini.
Terracotta is a type of hard-baked clay, produced by means of a single firing. usually rendered brownish red in color after firing, terracotta may be glazed (covered with a layer of molten glass) but is most often left in its natural state, sometimes called "buff" pottery.
Terracottas were initially hand molded. Later came the development of the clay mold, with which the artisan could push the soft clay into the mold, and produce a fine terracotta on the spot. This was certainly one of the first examples of mass production. This mold could provide a limited number of copies before it lost definition. The results were beautiful. The Greek terracotta craftsman was called coroplast, which is Greek for "doll maker." These terracottas were mass produced, and almost anyone in the society could afford them.
Figurative terracotta includes terracotta statuettes and other small portable objects. Terracotta figures were used either for religious purposes, as tools for the veneration of the gods and goddesses, or for secular purposes, as toys for the living and gifts from friends for the departed. Both full figures and heads are widely collected today. A warning to the collector: full standing figures are, much more often than not, highly restored. The heads were broken off at a shrine and offered to the god. They are usually not found complete. Along with the humanesque heads, terracotta animals are also collected. Babylonian and other Mesopotamian terracotta plaques are available along with the later Parthian man-on-horse terracottas.
Architectonic terracotta was made as decorations for buildings. Architectronic terracottas are most often found in areas where marble was scarce. Fine examples have been found in Magna Graecia and in Corinth. Objects include be beam ends, rainspouts, friezes, and pediment sculptures. Figurines and reliefs follow and exemplify the lines of stylistic development of the larger sculptures, e. g. Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. This field of collecting can be one of the most rewarding. A fine collection can be assembled today.
Terracotta goddess figures were manufactured in large numbers in Mesopotamian areas. The Early Northern Syrian Mesopotamian terracotta figures depict the "mother goddess," with large breasts. The nude goddess with her arms raised to her breasts was popular for a very long time and made in many periods. These terracottas often had a flat back like a plaque. These figures were ritually broken and are rarely found complete. Early mother goddess and primitive idol figures have been the subjects of special shows in Paris, London, and New York.
From 5000 - 4500 B.C. fertility gods were popular in the Middle East. Many areas produced idol figures, including Canaan, Anatolia, North Syria, Cyprus, Amlash, Uratu, Northern Pakistan, and India. The goddess Astarte was worshiped in Canaan in the late Bronze Age. Bizarre Syro-Hittite terracotta heads have long been an interesting type of collectible.
Greek terracottas offer archaic, classical and Hellenistic sculpture of Greek art in the round at much more affordable prices than stone sculpture. Early Greece produced "mother goddess" figures at Thessaly, and Mycenae, Boeotia. Even the Vinca culture of Yugoslavia produced early idol figures. The periods of Greek terracotta range from: 1) Prehistoric: 2000 - 1100 B.C. Crete (Minoan-Mycenae); 2) Dark Ages 1100 - 650 B.C. Geometric, Cyprus, Crete; 3) Archaic: 650 - 500 B.C. Rhodes, East Greece, Boeotia, Cyprus; 4) Classical: 500 - 330 B.C. Rhodes, Boeotia, Attica, Corinth, South Italy, Sicily, Crete, Melos; 5) Hellenistic: c. 330 B.C. - 100 A.D. Attic-Boeotia (Tanagra), Alexandria, South Italy, Myrina, Smyrna. Greek terracottas were the finest made in ancient times. The very finest Greek terracotta figures were made at Tanagra in the first half of the 4th century B.C.
Greek Terracotta Characteristics
Small quantity of mica
Cream: greenish; orange
Yellow ochre: pale orange-brownish
Fine before 500 B.C.
Orange: cream: purple-brown
Large mica crystals
Pale orange cream
Encrusted with chocolate-brown
Pale orange-light greenish gray
Most colors except greenish
Small quantity of mica
For terracotta oil lamp references see the lamps page.
Central Asian TerracottaCasal, J.-M. "Mundigak: l'Afghanistan ŗ l'aurore des civilisations" in Archeologia, No. 13, Nov. 1966, pp. 30 - 37.
Western Asiatic Terracotta
Legrain, L. Ur Terra-cottas Catalogue. (Unpublished). PDF available online.