Iranian pottery is as old as this country’s history. Its earliest manifestation, found at ancient sites in Baluchestan, date back to the Paleolithic. A remarkable production of pottery items flourished at Shahr-e Sukhteh around 3200 BC. Alas, after developing in multifarious manners in various centers across Iran, this art now appears on the verge of extinction despite its unique character. Among these, however, the history of kalpurkan is a different one all together.
The pottery items produced at Kalpurkan bear a great similarity to the specimens unearthed during 3rd millennium archeological excavations carried out in Sistan, Baluchestan,Kerman,Gillan,and parts of Japan and India. The village of Kalpurkan is a dependency of the township of Saravan and located 25 kilometers east of this township, in Baluchestan province .Perhaps the most striking particularity of the pottery of Kalpurkan concerns its manufacturing technique, which perpetuates ancient methods and models. This type of pottery produced using the coil technique. Its products are unglazed and adorned with dark brown patterns .
The potters of Kalpurkan have ever been women, who thus contribute to the economy of the family. They don’t use wheel .They shape their products with their hands and adorn them with particular geometric patterns that are several thousand years old. An aqueous mixture of Tytok (type of ferrous oxide)and a stone found on Mt.Birak, near the village, is used in this decoration, which is applied using a match-sized stick of Daz (wild date)wood. The decoration appears used consist entirely of abstract symbols and mental images transmitted form generation to generation, which sometimes religious beliefs or features of her environment. The majority of these symbols are similar to those found on pottery items belonging to the prehistory and the early historic period.
The raw material used in the manufacture of Kalpurkan pottery consists of particular type of clay .The man of the village bring it in from a region known as Mashkotak, two kilometers northeast of Kalpurkan, and blend it with a slip- like mixture to prepare the mud, which they hand over to their nimble-fingered women. The pottery items produced in Kalpurkan consist essentially of bowls, jugs, cups, pitchers, vessels, etc. Most of these vessels feature a lid which can also be used as an independent vessel. Examples in case are cup-shaped lids also used to cover large bowls. Another interesting feature of the pottery of Kalpurkan is their handles. Unlike the present-day pottery, these handles are even more resistant than the vessels themselves. Each handle is formed out of a thick coil of mud, which the artisan pastes to the moist body of the vessel and gives it the desired shape by means of appropriate tools. These handles are much better executed than those of the glazed pottery produced in the mid-centuries of the Islamic period. Another interesting characteristic of Kalpourkan is its diversity, which manifests itself in the form of vessels shaped as symbolic animal heads, pomegranate –shaped incense burners (used to burn wild rue seeds and locally known Socaky), vessels shaped as camels, dogs…It is noteworthy that the thickness of these varies between 1.0 and 5.5 centimeters. Their color is gray before firing and reddish brown once are backed.
The pottery of Kalpourkan may also be subdivided into such categories as food containers, toys, water pipes, bowls for keeping milk, sour milk, butter and pickles, large water containers, vessels, flat trays, large jars for keeping dates, etc, which again denotes the diversity of these items and their wide range of use. Today this pottery is not in great demand. Lightweight plastic wares appear to have replaced the hand-made products of indigenous artisans, with little regard for the fact that no plastic container can keep liquids as cool as earthenware dose. What is being lost here is not the coolness of water, but the irreplaceable art of Kalpurkan pottery. Iranian and foreign researchers have already carried out studies on the extant collections of Kalpurkan pottery, and hope is that this art will receive due attention in the near future.
In the early 1970s a workshop was set up at kalpurkan to coordinate the activities of the region’s potters. Erected within a plot of land covering 3800 square meters, this workshop has a built area of 386 square meters. Its architecture is well-adapted to the desert and the talented ladies of the area have now made it their gathering point. Today this workshop has been transformed into the museum of Kalpurkan pottery, which in fact makes it a living museum.