The clay that allows the manufacture of a pottery was taken in the vicinity of the village. Resulting from the decomposition of various rocks, this raw material is abundant in nature. Its main properties are the malleability in the wet state and the hardness after cooking. The preparation of the paste requires a lot of care: the clay must be kneaded with a degreasing agent that will prevent the vases from shrinking and cracking. Most often, the potter uses sand or chamotte (finely ground ceramic shards). Then the dough must be beaten to chase any bubble of air that could make its cooking imperfect. The potter’s wheel did not exist and the manufacturing processes could be different, but the most common technique was the so-called “colombins”. These are rolls of clay rolled by hand, closed in rings, superimposed and glued to each other by finger pressure. The vase is shaped gradually and takes a hunched shape by varying the size of the clay rings.

Then comes the realization of the decorations that characterize the vases of different Neolithic groups. On the Ensisheim group vases, it consists of ribbons, engraved in fresh clay using a pointed tool, first curvilinear [detail b], then angular [detail c], often embellished with ancillary patterns such as hyphens and dots. The cooking of the vases, after drying, is always a delicate operation, especially at a time when the furnaces remain to be invented. The operation lasts several hours and takes place on the ground or in a pit, with a fire regularly fed with wood. In this case, the ceramics are arranged in the bottom, then covered with branches. To prevent them from bursting, the potter must ensure a gradual rise in temperature up to 500 or even 800 degrees. The same goes for cooling the pottery: it must be slow, which is not obvious. The fire is regularly fueled with wood.

Byzantine civilization is the heiress of Greco-Roman antiquity. The vase of Emèse [principal image] testifies to this double contribution, by its decoration and undoubtedly by its function. Even if it dates from the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the seventh century, it still resembles the production of the “Justinian century”, the name of this conquering emperor, builder and legislator whose reign (527-565 ) marks a golden age for Byzantium. This imposing vase (45 cm high) shows that the taste of ancient Roman society for silverware [image 1] continues in the Byzantine era. Production remains very abundant and of high quality. The ancient techniques are still used: this silver vase was made by hammering, and, apart from some engraved details, its decor was made to repoussé. From Antiquity are also inherited decorative elements like stylized plant motifs between medallions. It is well preserved, but it probably lacks the handle that made it easier to handle. Silverware was often offered by the emperor or senior state figures to individuals or churches. These great gifts were used at banquets or in the Christian liturgy. The decorations are either inspired by ancient pagan culture or Christian, and provide information on the function of these vases. With the silver furniture of the churches (chandeliers, candlesticks, altar decorations), this valuable tableware constituted an important economic capital for the religious communities.