eMuseum Southeast Asia Ceramics


Thai ceramics were among the first Southeast Asian wares to be seriously studied, starting with WA Graham’s 1922 article “Pottery in Siam” in the Journal of the Siam Society. The field only gained momentum in the 1960s following Charles Nelson Spinks’ important contributions on Tai pottery and in the 1970s from the discovery of the Prasat Ban Phluang temple site.

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Some time around 1430, the capital of Sukhothai was moved eastward to Phitsanulok, which then became the political centre for the area. From 1463-88, King Trailok moved the Ayutthaya capital there to better conduct wars with Chiangmai (Brown 1988: 57).

Two brick kilns were excavated in 1984 and products of Phitsanulok were mostly unglazed stoneware jars and other utilitarian vessels, plus earthenwares, dating to the 15th century, largely in the Sawankhalok tradition. The stylistic similarities of the wares to Sawankhalok indicated that potters from there may have established a new kiln site at Phitsanulok to meet the needs of a growing market in the 15th century. (ibid.: 82-83)

Brown tells us that “what glaze is seen, usually on the shoulders of burial-size jars and olive or blackish in colour, may only be a fly-ash glaze, the result of firing high iron content clay in a wood-fuelled cross-draft kiln. One carbon-14 result from the two large brick kilns excavated at the site in April 1984 indicated a 14th-century date, although the site must still have been active in the 15th century, the probable date of the Koh Khram shipwreck, from which many examples of the wares were retrieved.” (ibid.: 95)

Burial-size jar with appliqué and carved decoration, mottled dark grey to reddish-brown body, and olive glaze on the shoulder
Phitsanulok ware, probably 15th to mid-16th century
H: 30.5 cm
Suan Pakhad Palace, Bangkok
(Photo source: Brown 1988: pl. XLIII a)

Jar, for storage, with four large loop handles, reddish-brown body, stacking scars at the mouthrim and at the rim of the concave base which also has olive glaze at its centre; black glaze on the upper vessel body.
Probably Phitsanulok (15th to mid-16th centuries), but perhaps Singburi (17th C) kiln site
H: 23.9 cm
Collection of Surat Osathanugraha. Photograph by Kim Retka.
(Photo source: Brown 1988: pl. XLIII b)
Basin, reddish-bodied, retrieved from Koh Khram shipwreck. Compare with basin below.
D: 37 cm
Bangkok National Museum
(Photo source: Brown 1988: pl. 47 a)
Basin from Royal Nanhai shipwreck, 1460
D: 35 cm
NUS Museum S2003-0022-001-0

Storage jars, bulbous, with thick rounded mouthrims, short necks, incised rings round the shoulders at the level of the thick lug handles, and dark greyish bodies; no traces of glaze (if originally present) remain. Their condition indicates that these jars were on the deck of the ship and so were not quickly covered with sand that preserved other wares. From Koh Khram shipwreck.
H: 30-60 cm
Bangkok National Museum
Source: Brown 1988


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