This two-tone earthenware beaker is close on 6,000 years old. It was made in the Badarian era (ca. 4000-3400 B.C.) and was shaped by hand. The potter’s wheel had yet to be invented. The pot was fired upside down in an open fire, and its interior, as well as the rim’s exterior buried in the hot ashes, were denied oxygen and so turned black. The outside base and sides, which were exposed to the air, burned red. The knowledge that color could be deliberately controlled in this way would be exploited by Josiah Wedgwood some 5,750 years later when he made his red “rosso antico” and “black basaltes” wares.

1. Beaker, earthenware. Egypt, ca. 4000–3400 B.C.