Ancient African Vases

Ancient African vases were something that was needed by each every person. Ancient African vases provided the only way to store water and food.

Ancient African vases were also three dimensional art forms that were common in ancient African societies. Like most ancient African art, vases were crafted using abstract art techniques.

african ceramic vessels Ghana Asante
The first ancient African vases were created between 7,000 to 6,000 B.C.E. The vases were crude in form and made by hand.

Crafting the clay into vases was not an easy task in the beginning. After the invention of the potter’s wheel around 3,000 B.C.E. the shape of vases became more unified.

Designs of ancient Africa vases

The design of ancient Africa vases varied from each region within the continent. At first ancient African vases were crafted without a specific design.

The first designs to appear on ancient African vases were geometric forms like zig-zag lines, circles, dots, and even finger prints.

Eventually, the design of ancient African vases included human and animal figures. Many times these figures were distorted or not of proper proportion.

Many ancient African vases were decorated with items such as inlaid ivory, gem stones and leather.
African Pottery Arts

Other ancient African vase makers used plant dyes like red ochre to paint their vases with scenes such as herds of cattle. Charcoal was another item used frequently for vase painting.

Making ancient African vases

It is believed by researchers that the first ancient African vases were made of woven plant material.

The plant vases did not survive over time due to the harsh climate and billions of termites that live on the continent. Around 7,000 to 6,000 B.C.E. ancient Africans began to make pottery.

Ancient African vases made of clay were shaped and formed then placed in an open fire or kiln to bake and harden.

Each region of the continent specialized in a form of vase making. For instance, ancient African vases from the central portion of the continent are highly polished, whereas vases from the eastern region are simplistic in construction.

Uses for ancient African vases

Ancient African vases allowed for the storage of much needed food and water. Most ancient African societies were hunter-gatherers and needed vases to store food and water.

Ancient African vases also were used for storing beer and wine. Other ancient African vases were used for cooking and others were used as chamber pots.

Ancient African vases also played a part in ceremonies. Shamans would use ancient African vases during ceremonies such as funerals.

Shamans made special boxes to keep ceremonial vases in storage until they were used in a ceremony.

Many times the ancient African vases were made to be broken during these ceremonies. Other times the vases might be filled with food or drink and buried with an individual.

The rise of ancient African vases in the North Africa

After the Roman conquest of northern Africa, ancient Africa vases took on a more Romanesque style in design and color.

Beginning around 100 C.E. ancient African vase makers copied the style of Roman Empire vases. By 75 C.E.

ancient African vase makers in the north were supplying much of the Roman Empire with vases.

Important facts about ancient African vases

  • The earliest ancient African vases were constructed of woven plant material.
  • The first ancient African vases were constructed between 7,000 to 6,000 B.C.E.
  • Ancient African vases are crafted as three dimensional arts.
  • Ancient African vases were primarily used for food and water storage.
  • Women were the most common people to make ancient African vases.
  • Many ancient African vases were ornamental with inlaid ivory and gem stones.
  • Ancient African vases were made with human and animal figures that were distorted in size and shape making them examples of abstract art.
  • Ancient African vases were used by shamans during ceremonies such as funerals and were often made to be broken during the ceremony.


  1. What type of material was used to make the first ancient African vases?

Woven plant material

  1. What type of art was most common in ancient African vases?


  1. What was the main purpose of ancient African vases?

Food and water storage

  1. What was the most common gender to make ancient African vases?