Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics


Accession Number: JHUAM B4
Measurements: Height 7.3cm, Diameter: 24.5cm
Material: Ceramic
Date/Cuture: Greek, 510 BCE
Provenance: The Baltimore Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, 1877 purchase

In Spring 2015, Sanchita Balachandran, the Archaeological Museum’s Curator/Conservator taught an interactive, hands on course titled “Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics.”  In collaboration with expert ceramics artists including Matthew Hyleck and Cami Ascher at Baltimore Clayworks, and thirteen undergraduate students and one graduate student assistant at Johns Hopkins, the course attempted to recreate one of the most iconic, beautiful and technologically complex objects known from ancient Greece–the red-figure kylix or cup.  The course brought together not only students across disciplines, but also involved extensive consultation with art historians, archaeologists, art conservators and materials scientists across the country in the attempt to recreate vessels similar to the ancient examples held at the Archaeological Museum.  Throughout the course, students made replicas of painted kylikes in teams, reported on their progress in the course blog, prepared workshop journals, and created their own tiles to fire.  Please explore our site to learn more about all of these activities!

The collaborative team in the course "Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics."

The collaborative team in the course “Recreating Ancient Greek Ceramics.” We are holding our contemporary versions of kylikes in front of the case of similar objects made by ancient Greek masters.

Among the best known examples of pottery from ancient Greece are vessels such as the Athenian red-figure vases currently on view at the Archaeological Museum.  The vessels on display were made in Greece between the 6th and 5th centuries BCE and represent a highpoint of artistic and technical achievement in the ancient world.  These red-figure vases were among the first objects purchased by the Baltimore Society of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1877, and placed on display at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum in the early twentieth century.

A tremendous wealth of archaeological and art historical scholarship exists on the subject of Athenian vases, and more recently, extensive scientific research on how these objects were originally manufactured, painted and fired has involved the collaborative efforts of art conservators, materials scientists and master potters.  And yet, many questions remain about how these iconic objects were made. The course explored many of these questions in a hands-on way, discussing and challenging the published literature on these objects, and developing new questions that will guide the next round of research in coming months.

This experimental course was generously supported by the JHU Program in Museums and Society and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  As part of the project, a short film documenting the experience of recreating the vessels is being created and will be made available in June 2015.  A series of radio conversations about the project–including one by student participants in the course– will also air on Baltimore’s WYPR station as part of the Humanities Connection segment.