Expository Writing Practice
Hello, class. Today we’ll be looking at Greek ceramics, and at expository writing.
What is pottery?
Ceramics: clay ﬁred in a kiln
Most Greek pottery is terra-cotta
high iron oxide content = red color
dinner plates to religious objects
numerous traditional shapes
First, what is pottery? Well, it’s clay — a kind of earth — ﬁred in a kiln at high temperature, usually starting
around 600° F. Greece had excellent clay, and shaped it into beautiful objects; these objects for a historical
record for ancient Greece.
Expository writing “explains”
it offers discussions, reasons, assessment,
purpose and backstory.
It often uses phrases like “because”, “in
order to”, and “so that”.
It offers commentary on WHY.
The second thing we’ll do is learn to write expository sentences. Exposition means “explanation”. We write to
EXPLAIN, or to answer WHY something is the way it is. For each image in the slides, try to write a sentence that
answers a WHY question.
For each image...
Write 2 expository sentences, or...
1 expository and 1 narrative, or...
1 expository and 1 descriptive, or...
1 descriptive and 1 narrative sentence.
You should do this by writing two expository sentences for each image, or some combination of the expository
and descriptive sentences we’ve already learned to write.
For expository writing,
think about underlying causes
Toyota Example: Five Whys...
asking why 5 times gets you a better,
more detailed answer.
Write that one.
Try using Toyota’s FIVE WHYs process to write. Instead of writing down the ﬁrst BECAUSE that comes into your
head, try working from the third or fourth.
Late Minoan Pottery
Island of Crete
Storage Jars, 1.2m
tall, Palace of
Knossos; note holes
This is a Pithos, or storage jar from Crete. It’s Minoan and dates from around 1600 BC. It’s big enough to put me
inside. Notice the lugs on the side, with holes for holding ropes in place around the jar, for carrying it around.
Cretan Design Sense
Even storage jars can
get pretty fancy
1.3 m tall, painted
with double axes
(religious symbol) and
c. 1550 BCE
This is another pithos, large enough to hold me. It’s painted with double axes, a religious symbol, BECAUSE it’s
probably a storage jar for a temple or a priestly family.
Octopus Jar, Crete
c. 1600 BCE
sealed together to
form globe shape
tentacles writhe all
over the jar.
We’ve seen this Minoan octopus jar before. Maybe you notice the lug or disk on the side of the jar? It’s just
around the eyes. The disk is there BECAUSE the jar is actually two bowl-shapes from a wheel ﬁtted together.
The Enkomi Painter
c. 1600 BCE
from Enkomi on
bird cleaning a bull’s
horns and neck-ruff
This a bowl by the Enkomi painter. It came from a town in Greece. Notice how few basic patterns make up the
design of the bull and the bird. The painter has used a minimum of design patterns BECAUSE he was in a rush to
about 1400 BCE
Olive leaf pattern
This is a wine jar, but it has patterns of olive leaves on it. Why olive leaves? BECAUSE olives and olive oil were an
important source of wealth for the Mycenaean Greeks.
This octopus isn’t
quite as exciting or
naturalistic as the
c. 1400 BCE
Yes, here’s the Mycenaean Octopus jar. Why is this one so much more frightening or scary than the playful
Minoan one? BECAUSE the eyes are smaller, BECAUSE the tentacles don’t writhe so much, and BECAUSE the body is
vertical on the jar, rather than at an angle.
Military Themes, too
doesn’t have soldiers
has lots of warriors
c. 1250 BCE
The Minoans didn’t have warriors on their pottery, but the Mycenaeans did. In fact, most Mycenaean pottery has
warriors on it BECAUSE the Mycenaeans were more warlike, and had a society that gloriﬁed military prowess.
The Greek Dark Ages
c. 1200 BCE, Greece hits a rough time.
Plague destroys towns and nations
knowledge of written language vanishes
lasts until about 880 BCE
There’s a gap in the historical record of ancient Greece, running from about 1200 BC until a little after 880 BC.
There isn’t any pottery or any writing, BECAUSE the Dorian Invasion seems to have killed off most of the craftsmen
and most of the scribes.
New pottery style
principles - 1) cover
the whole pot; 2) use
designs or decoration
The new pottery that appears is called Geometric, BECAUSE it consists entirely of lines and angles. Where animal
shapes appear, they are merely geometric sketches of real birds, bulls, etc.
c. 875 BCE
line pattern, like
human ﬁgures, but...
not really real
When people do appear on Geometric pottery, they are only sketches of people — stick ﬁgures, really. Humans
are secondary, BECAUSE the geometry is still more important than the people.
c. 850 BCE
1 meter tall
Funeral Urn for
making offerings to
appearance of animals
Yet people ﬁnally do make an appearance in Greek ceramics, BECAUSE people are becoming important in Greek
society again. The largest ceramics are funerary urns, which function like headstones in a modern graveyard.
THey use pottery jars BECAUSE the Greeks ﬁll them with wine or oil as offerings to their dead relatives.
Sophisticated but Unreal
Most of the pottery is still pretty geometrical. It’s very sophisticated, BECAUSE the potters and painters are very
good at what they do. However, they’re not good artists yet, BECAUSE a lot of knowledge has been lost.
Sailor saying Farewell
The potters are starting to be asked to tell stories, though. By 780 BC, painted pots are starting to tell stories
from the Greek myths, BECAUSE the Iliad and the Odyssey are so popular. Here’s Odysseus leaving Penelope to
sail for the Trojan War.
Mythology in Pottery
Painters use myths
as source for
Odysseus blinding the
c. 690 BCE
still can’t give up
ﬁlling all space,
Certain stories, like Odysseus putting out the eye of the Cyclops, appear again and again, BECAUSE they are so
c. 750 BCE: Greeks
see the world (Egypt)
appears, inspired by
Then the Greeks, newly wealthy and recovering from their 200-year decline, started traveling again. Pottery starts
appearing with animal heads, BECAUSE Greeks are seeing statues of Egyptian gods and goddesses, and replicating
the animal heads on their own work.
c. 600 BCE
Late Archaic Style
Black ﬁgures on
detail scratched into
base of black paint
The Geometric style remains the norm from about 900 BC until about 600 BC, when there is a sudden shift.
Greeks begin making a new style of pottery called Black Figure Ware, BECAUSE of new artists’ techniques
discovered in Athens.
Artemis slays Actaeon
A lot of the old Geometric designs vanish, BECAUSE the ﬁgures emerge from the darkness like images of ﬁre. The
red clay of Greece makes the ﬁgures luminous against a black background.
Black paint forms
detailed lines on red
Possible to make
Actaeon slain by his
own hounds, c. 500
About 100 years later, still another style emerges, in which the whole piece is painted black, except for red ﬁgures
with black detail lines. Because of this, Greek art takes a decided turn toward realistic pictures on pottery.
Hermes guides the Dead
Geometric and ﬂoral designs remain popular, BECAUSE they repeat and a beginning potter or ceramics painter can
learn the craft this way. But the master potters are gradually producing elaborate pieces of art as trophies and
Detail of Artemis
Some stories are known in shorthand only from the pottery, because we have no complete written sources for
Pythia & Theseus
Because so many pieces of pottery are needed (plates, bowls, mixing dishes, drinking cups, perfume boxes, wine
jars, storage jars and more), many stories from Greek myths get told this way.