The Marajoara or Marajó culture was a pre-Columbian era society that flourished on Marajó island at the mouth of the Amazon River. In a survey, Mann suggests dates between 800 AD and 1400 AD for the culture, while other research posits activity two centuries earlier and persistence two centuries later, into the colonial era.
Sophisticated pottery—large and elaborately painted and incised with representations of plants and animals—is the most impressive finding in the area and provided the first evidence of complex society on Marajó. Evidence of mound building further suggests well-populated and sophisticated settlements emerged on the island. However, the extent, level of complexity, and resource interactions of the Marajoara culture are disputed. Working in the 1950s, Meggers suggests that the society migrated from the Andes and settled on the island. In the 1980s, Roosevelt led excavations and geophysical surveys of the mound Teso dos Bichos, and concluded that the society that constructed the mounds originated on the island itself.
Travelers in the 1800s noted both the presence of mounds and the beauty of the ceramics found inside them or exposed on their sides. Museums in Europe and the United States began to collect some of the larger and more beautiful pieces, the largest of which are funerary urns. Buried in house floors constructed on the tops of the mounds, the elaborately decorated urns contain the remains of significant individuals. When the individuals died, the flesh was cleared from their bones and the remains were placed in the urns, which where then topped with a bowl or platter.
Pottery is the ceramic material which makes up potterywares, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery (plural "potteries"). Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery.
The definition of pottery used by ASTM is "all fired ceramic wares that contain clay when formed, except technical, structural, and refractory products." Some archaeologists use a different understanding of this definition by excluding ceramic objects such as figurines which are made by similar processes, materials and the same people but are not vessels.
Pottery is made by forming a clay body into objects of a required shape and heating them to high temperatures in a kiln which removes all the water from the clay, which induces reactions that lead to permanent changes including increasing their strength and hardening and setting their shape. A clay body can be decorated before or after firing. Prior to some shaping processes, clay must be prepared. Kneading helps to ensure an even moisture content throughout the body. Air trapped within the clay body needs to be removed. This is called de-airing and can be accomplished by a machine called a vacuum pug or manually by wedging. Wedging can also help produce an even moisture content. Once a clay body has been kneaded and de-aired or wedged, it is shaped by a variety of techniques. After shaping it is dried and then fired.