Setting an elegant table was often reserved for those with high rank. They often used dining as a way to inspire awe and respect from those beneath them socially, or they did it to honour those who had achieved great things in their lives. It might seem important to look at the entire table when speaking of the history of ceramics and pottery, but centuries of cups have their own tale to tell.
Drinking any beverage requires a vessel to hold it, and cups have been around a very long time. Smaller than storage vessels for grains or vegetables, these small ceramic pieces were part of everyday life. The original ones might not have had handles, but they still served a useful purpose. The ability to drink from a cup was the beginning of civilized behaviour for some, and it quickly became an expectation for many. It is still with mankind today in the form of coffee cups, fine tea cups, glassware, and even mugs.
Creating cups is a relatively simple process with a good lump of clay and a potter’s wheel. After the piece has dried, it can be fired in a kiln, decorated and glazed and fired once more. The end result is a vessel that is safe to drink out of, and it should last years as long as it does not fall onto a hard surface. Easy cleaning is part of the attraction, and even a touch of decoration has become part of cups.
There is a useful element to cups in the modern world that is shared with ancient cultures, but there are also differences. Cups today are often coordinated with an entire dish set, and many of them are used to represent companies, organizations, and even local traditions. They will continue to be part of humanity’s world, but their decorations may change dramatically after a few more centuries.