al-Hiba: Handmade Pottery Vessels Makers

Date: 1960s

The kūz (jug), which is used for water or salt, is the only type of baked pottery vessel made near al-Hiba. They are made and sold by one or two women during the summer. Ochsenschlager records that in 1968 they were selling for between 50 to 300 Iraqi fills (equivalent to US $.13 to $.78), depending on size. Baked pottery is a speciality practised by so few because of the expertise and resources required.

First, the mud is carefully collected, wrapped in a damp cloth, and brought back to the maker’s home. The temper is coma (made from the hair-like material found on the top of reeds), and it is kneaded into the clay. The prepared clay is stored in a container, but when the maker goes to use it she adds extra coma.  She then makes a thick disk shape and pushes into the centre to create the first level of siding. The rest is formed in layers. After it is dry, the vessel is fired in a trench lined with dung patties and reeds. After firing the vessel is cured by being taken to the bank where clean mud is rubbed over it to fill in any gaps, The vessel finally sits full of water for one or two days.

Sometimes it is requested that the kuz fit under a hib (large terracotta vessel) so that it can act as a water filter. See also: Maker of Mud Drums; Sculptor with Mud; Potters; Maker of Mud Bricks.

Citation: Ochsenschlager, Edward. Iraq’s Marsh Arabs in the Garden of Eden (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2004), pp. 111-121.