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6. Ritual Monument Batpalathang B3

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Archaeological Material (part 6)

Origin of Pottery Ware

In Bumthang, it is supposed that pottery was not produced locally, but rather imported from specialized centers like the one known in Lhuentse (northeastern Bhutan). While this supposition is regularly made by local informants, we rather think that such hypothetical far origin is a construction which is due to the simple fact that pottery making has apparently disappeared from the Choskhor valley at some time in recent history, and that this lacking technological knowledge induces new reasoning about the ware’s origin.

From our corpus, we particularly observed that the glittering temper added to the clay to fabricate the pots is almost identical in content to local sediments showing very high feldspath content. One such sediment occurs about 500 meters to the north of Batpalathang, on the track leading to Thekarshong hamlet.

The lacking technological knowledge of pottery making in present days is not a sufficient reason to induce the absence of local pottery production in historical times. The relatively poor quality of the ware found in and around B3, and the fact that its temper material shows such evident resemblance with easy accessible sediment deposits, argument for a local, domestic, origin of this production.

To illustrate this view, we would like to present observations published in 1996 in the bi-monthly bulletin of the Inter Regional Volunteer Programme for Artisan Support (IVPAS) by Choeki Ongmo Dazer, a Bhutanese working for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in Bhutan:

“The first artisan craft of Bhutan was pottery. The pots were made of red mud and sold locally. They were used for cooking as well as storing water. Pottery lost its popularity when aluminium, brass and steel pots came into the market. Today the art of making pots has lost its charm in Bhutan. Lhuntshi and Samdrup Jongkhar districts in the East and Thimpu and Wangdi Phodrang in the West were noted for pottery. The mud of these regions was suitable for pot making.

The technique implemented is fully manual. The decline can be traced to prevalent social norms. Potters branded as low castes found it difficult to entice apprentices. This was compounded by the enormous competition aluminium pots created. The potters had a sudden limit to the scope of their livelihood” (Dazer 1996).

These lines indicate the fast replacement of pottery vessels by metal and alloy recipients, process that must be fairly recent in some areas. It nevertheless focuses on the ability potters had to produce quality earthenware that was in use in most households and also traded locally.

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Copyright 2001, Reto Blumer, Switzerland
Copyright 2001, SLFA Zürich, Switzerland

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Last updated: 29-05-2001.