When it comes to ancient art, Greek pottery is perhaps one of the most celebrated forms in the world. Dating back to the 8th century BCE (or earlier), Greek pottery has gone on to inspire artisans and scholars alike over generations, and continues to offer an unparalleled glimpse into the world of Ancient Greece. In this article, we’ll provide a thorough overview of Greek pottery, from its inception and its many styles, to the wider history of pottery in Ancient Greece and its influence on art, culture, and the daily practices of citizens in the region.

History of Greek Pottery

The history of Greek pottery can be traced back to the Neolithic period, when ceramic vessels were being crafted as early as 6000 BCE. Of course, the craft of pottery was already common among most early civilizations, and while Greek settlements had certainly been utilizing pottery craftsmanship for thousands of years, it wasn’t until the start of the Geometric Period in 800 BCE that Greek pottery began to take its form.

Within the Geometric era, potters worked around a range of distinct shapes, opting for basic composition and bold decoration. Then came the Orientalizing period (700 to 600 BCE), during which a range of influences from the Near East contributed to a change in pottery style. Working with more refined shapes and designs, potters during this period often used animal and figurative motifs to decorate their works.

Main Types of Greek Pottery

Throughout its history, Greek pottery has been divided into several prominent categories, each of which has a unique style that identifies it from the rest. These categories include Black-Figure, Red-Figure, and White-Figure pottery, as well as Proto-Attic, Attic, Corinthian, Panathenaic Amphora, and Palestinian Relief Ware pottery.


Black-figure pottery was invented in Corinth during the 7th century BCE as a response to the painted clay pottery that was popular during the Orientalizing period. There are two main techniques employed when in the making of black-figure ware. The first of these involves covering the future vessel with a black slip and then using a brush to scratch away the slip to create designs (known as ‘sgraffito’). The second method consists of creating a clay silhouette before filling its interior with black slip and then ‘firing’ the silhouette to the clay.


Red-figure pottery was developed as an alternative to the black-figure technique. It was first used during the 5th century BCE and combined the process of ‘sgraffito’ with a new technique that involved painting designs into the designs of the pottery. This method allowed for a high level of detail and control of the end result, with the most prevalent motifs being the human figure and animals.


White-ground (or ‘White-leaved’) pottery is characterized by its white slip or glaze, and was employed as a luxurious form of ceramicware that was often used to decorate tombs. The slip would be traditionally painted over the vessel with a thin brush followed by decorations, usually in the form of a floral motif.

Other Types

Other types of Greek pottery developed over the years and saw widespread usage throughout the region. These types include Proto-Attic pottery, which is considered to be the earliest known variant of the ‘Attic’ style of pottery; Attic pottery which is known for its delicate decorations; Corinthian pottery which is characterized by its relief-cut floral motifs; Panathenaic Amphora which was used to give prizes to athletes during the Panathenaic Games; and Palestinian Relief Ware which was used to create decorative vessels (fancily known as ‘drinking horns’).

End thoughts

Greek pottery is a craft steeped in tradition and with a proud history. From the Neolithic period to the present day, the artistry of Greek pottery has seen countless evolutions, particularly during the 8th century BCE with the development of the black-figure, red-figure, and white-ground techniques. Each style of pottery has its own unique design and purpose, and together they form an integral part of the cultural history of Greece.


Greek Pottery,

Ancient Greece,

Greek Art