Ceramics in Mainland Southeast Asia:
Collections in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Print | Back to Normal Layout


  • Unglazed earthenware
  • 5.4 x 12.9 cm
  • 16th-early 17th century, Ayutthaya period
  • Origin: Ayutthaya province, Chao Phraya River network, Central Thailand
  • Gift of Osborne and Gratia Hauge, and Victor and Takako Hauge
  • S2005.371b


Clay: salmon earthenware.
Glaze: none.

Curatorial Remarks

1. (Louise Cort, 30 January 2008) There is no way of knowing the original relationship of this lid to the vessel with which it came. In all likelihood the pairing was created by the person who sold the piece to the Hauges, although presumably the lid, like the pot, was recovered from the Chao Phraya River near Ayutthaya.

Concave earthenware lids with "mushroom" knobs of the type associated with this vessel were excavated from the site of the royal palace at Angkor Thom (Franiatte 2000, 112–113, fig. 32).

The date of the lids from the royal palace excavations is not certain, but Franiatte notes that a pedestal-base jar associated with such a lid was excavated from the Srah Srang cemetery in 1962 (ibid., 113, no.  25). The cemetery was used in two phases—from the second half of the 11th to the early 12th century and from the 13th through 15th centuries (Courbin 1988, 25). A lid of this type appears on the same excavated level as an Angkorian period (seemingly 11th–12th century) baluster jar in Courbin 1988, 31, fig. 9.

This evidence seems to suggest that such earthenware lids were in use by the Angkorian period, were made by local potters, and perhaps were marketed separately from specific vessels, to be paired up as needed by vessel owners.

Production of such lids took place at kilns in central Thailand. The Freer Study Collection contains a sherd of a very large concave lid—unglazed, reddish, but fairly hard, perhaps stoneware—collected by John Pope at the Koh Noi kiln district in Si Satchanalai  (F-SC-P2346), along with several fragments of large brown-glazed four-eared jars. This would appear to demonstrate a close association of the production of glazed stoneware jars and such lids.

Lids of this type were also recovered from the Maenam Noi kilns in Singburi province (Sāyan 1988, 51; Chārưk 1990, 65). Chārưk illustrates two types—with a hemispherical underside and with a flat bottom and straight everted sides.

Numerous lids of this type were recovered from excavation of the mid-15th century Kyo-no-uchi SK01 site within the Shuri Castle site, Okinawa (Okinawa Kenritsu Maizo Bunkazai Sentaa ed. 2001, 39, no. 209; 66, no. 208). Brown-glazed jars with four lugs from the Sawankhalok and Maenam Noi kilns are also excavated from this site (Mukai 2003, 98).

The lids are also found at other sites on Okinawa island, in notably greater quantities than Thai earthenware pots, and only in two cases were earthenware pots found buried together with lids. On the contrary, a group of some sixty lids was excavated from one place within the Kyo-no-uchi site (Naha Shiritsu Tsuboya Yakimono Hakubutsukan, ed. 1998, 4950, fig. 8). This find suggests that the lids were exported separately from earthenware pots.

A lid of this type was excavated from the shipwreck "Longquan," estimated to have sunk circa 1370–1440, and carrying (judging from sample finds brought up from the deep site) Chinese, Sawankhalok, and Sukhothai wares (Brown and Sjostrand 2000, 51, pl. 79). "This type of cover was used primarily for storage jars. They are a very common find on wrecks in the South China Sea but their kiln origin is unknown. No sherds from this shape have been found at the Old Sukhothai or Sawankhalok kilns."

Franiatte, Marc. 2000. "Nouvelles analyses de la céramique khmère du Palais royal d'Angkor Thom: Etude préliminaire." Udaya (Journal of Khmer Studies) 1: 91–124.

Courbin, Paul. 1988. "La fouille du Sras-Srang." 21–25 and pl. in Collection de textes et documents sur l'Indochine 17, Documents graphiques de la conservation d'Angkor : 1963–1973, edited by Jacques Dumarçay and Paul Courbin. Paris: 1'École Française d'Extrême-Orient.

Sāyan Phraichānčhit (Sayan Phraichanchit). 1988. Rāi ngān kānsamrūat lae khutkhon Tao Mǣnam Nǭi: Tambon Chœng Klat, Amphœ Bang Račhan, Čhangwat Singburī (Report on the survey and excavation of the Maenam Noi kilns, Bang Rachan town, Sing Buri province). Bangkok: Krom Sinlapākǭn (Fine Arts Department).

Chārưk Wilaikǣo (Charuk Wilaykaen). 1990. Tao Mǣnam Nǭi 2 [Maenam Noi Kilns, part 2]. Bangkok: Krom Sinlapākǭn (Fine Arts Department).

Okinawa Kenritsu Maizō Bunkazai Sentaa [Okinawa Prefecture Center for Buried Cultural Properties], ed. 2001. Shūrijō Kyō-no-uchi ten—Bōeki tōji kara mita dai kōeki jidai [Exhibition on Shuri castle, Kyo-no-uchi—the great age of trade as seen through trade ceramics. Nishihara-cho, Okinawa: Okinawa Kenritsu Maizō Bunkazai Sentaa.

Mukai Kou. 2003. "Tai kokkatsuyū shijiko no bunrui to nendai (The Study on Brown Glazed Storage Jars, exported from Thailand)." Bōeki Tōji Kenkyū (Trade Ceramics Studies) 23: 90–105 (Japanese), 161 (English summary).

Naha Shiritsu Tsuboya Yakimono Hakubutsukan (The Tsuboya Ceramics Museum), ed. 1998. Tōjiki ni miru dai kōki jidai no Okinawa to Ajia [Okinawa and Asia in the great trading age as seen through ceramics]. Naha: Okinawa-ken Naha-shi Kyoiku Iinkai (Okinawa Prefecture Naha City Board of Education].

Brown, Roxanna M., and Sten Sjostrand. 2000. Turiang: A Fourteenth–Century Shipwreck in Southeast Asia. Los Angeles: Pacific Asia Museum.

2. (Louise Cort, 31 January 2008) Green and Harper reported that a number of lids of this type excavated from the Pattaya shipwreck were found to have resin attached to the edge of the upper surface, an indication "that they were used as sealing lids for the medium-sized storage jars [from the Maenam Noi kilns]. The solidified resin suggests that the lid was placed upside down over the mouth of the pot (domed side upwards), and molten resin poured around the joint to seal it" (Green and Harper 1983, 14).

Green, Harper, and Intakosi published a lid with a knob handle excavated from the Ko Si Chang Three shipwreck (KSC3 224) that bore a "potter's cord mark" on the flattened concave side, as did some others of the 142 lids of this type recovered from the wreck (Green et al 1987, 61–62). This evidence that the lids were thrown on the potter's wheel would seem to associate their production with stoneware-making workshops, although women earthenware potters working today in Ayutthaya make use of the potter's wheel in the preliminary stage of their work.

On the Ko Si Chang Three wreck, the lids were concentrated in bulkhead 50–51. "The concentration of so many lids in this area (>50) is significant since there was no correspondingly large number of associated items, such as jars or pots, to which the lids may have belonged. It is therefore assumed that the lids were a cargo item" (Green et al 1987, 47).

Green, Jeremy, and Rosemary Harper. 1983. The Excavation of the Pattaya Wreck Site and Survey of Three Other Sites, Thailand, 1982, Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology Special Publication No. 1. Fremantle: Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology.

Green, Jeremy, Rosemary Harper, and Vidya Intakosi. 1987. The Ko Si Chang Three Shipwreck Excavation 1986, Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology Special Publication No. 4. Fremantle: Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology.

3. (Louise Cort, 29 May 2008) Don Hein, in Washington to present the Pope Memorial Lecture, said that very few lids of this this type were found at Si Satchanalai. Their source was mainly Ayutthaya, where they must have been associated with production of earthenware thrown on a fast wheel and fired in an updraft kiln. (They show no signs of smoke clouds from bonfire firing.)

field notes

Submit Comment 0 comments total

No field notes found.