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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October

The story of this difficult and challenging phenomenon only began after people left off being hunters and gatherers, settled down in one place and started producing their own food. In other words after they became farmers. Although this stage in human civilisation begins around the 10th millennium BC, it was only around 7000 BC that pottery vessels began to be made. This long interval of several thousand years shows that the development of pottery was by no means as simple as it seems.
People had made the acquaintance of clay long before. An astonishing 35,000 years ago they discovered that this malleable material could be shaped, as proved by the existence of many figurines and relief figures

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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October

Then, after making the transition to a settled way of life, clay was used in the construction of houses. It was spread on floors, walls, hearths and roofs, mixed into mortar, and smeared over storage vessels and storage rooms made of reeds or wicker. Only later did people discover that when clay was heated by fire it became stronger and harder, and they began to heat their figurines, jewellery and other small objects. As they gradually gained understanding of the chemical properties of clay, they learned to control the fire required to harden it, and then learned to combine this knowledge to make pottery vessels, so achieving one of the greatest revolutions that marks the Neolithic age.

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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October
The process of cooking food in water is thought to have been the main factor behind this revolution. Evidence in support of this theory includes the increasing importance of cereals in the diet, and the fermentation of these grains. Watery food required containers in which to place it, and pottery vessels were developed to meet this need. It may seem surprising, but beer made from barley is reckoned to be one of the first food products for which pottery vessels were used.
By a process of trial and error people discovered how to rub and burnish vessels to ensure that they would not leak; and which types of clay produced vessels of which colour and quality, in kilns of which type, and at which temperatures. And finally, after all these stages of development, vessels were decorated and became cultural artefacts.
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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October
Now people began to express their beliefs, ideas and tastes in the medium of pottery; to reflect the world around them in shapes and motifs. A piece of pottery might be given place of honour in the home as a symbol of prestige, or used in religious ceremonies. Pottery had become multifunctional. This versatile material could be used to experiment with abstraction and diverse styles, with the result that in prehistoric times before writing was invented, pottery vessels acquired unparalleled significance as a mirror of human culture.
As time progressed, millennium following millennium, people discovered other materials besides clay. First copper, then bronze. Bronze vessels of breathtaking beauty were prestige objects for kings and temples by 3000 BC. Although they symbolised wealth and power, they never stopped being at the same time expressions of the desire for fertility and protection. Whatever their motifs and forms, and whether made of silver, gold, bronze or clay, these concepts have lost none of their meaning in their passage through time.
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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October
In the village of Gökyurt today, stone houses dating from the early 20th century display an interesting feature. Set into the single slab of stone above the upper right window of every house is a plate. And beside each plate is the word Allah in old Turkish script stylised into the form of an evil eye bead, together with the date when the house was built. The local people have no idea when and how this custom began. But what is really significant is their belief that these plates symbolise abundance and fertility, and bring happiness and prosperity to the occupants. Another example of plates as architectural decoration is seen on the courtyard walls of the Makam-ý Dergâh Halil in Sanliurfa.
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Symbols of abundance Plates
2002 / October

Although it is not known whether these plates have the same meaning, this is suggested by the eye motifs resembling evil eye beads which encircle them since these motifs express the wish for good fortune and abundance.

* Nebil Üster is a freelance writer.


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