The present study focused on the mineralogical and chemical characterization and firing behaviour of clays from the Lake Van region and compared them with the same characteristics established for two ancient pot sherds. Four pottery clays collected from Kutki and Kuşluk in the Kesan Valley to the south, from Kavakbaşı to the southwest and from Bardakçı village on the east coast of Lake Van were analysed by X-ray diffraction to identify mineralogical composition (bulk clays and <2 μm fractions after heating at 300–500°C and ethylene glycol solvation). Further analyses were conducted to determine the size distribution, chemical composition and physical properties of test bodies derived from these clays. The in situ weathered schist forming the primary micaceous red clays which are suitable for local pottery production are characterized by large muscovite-sericite-illite and small calcite contents. In contrast, the Bardakçı clays are dominated by large smectite contents and are only used sparingly in mixtures of local pottery production because they undergo firing shrinkage and present drying and firing flaws in the fired bodies. Firing ranges of ∼800–900°C were inferred from the mineralogy and colours of the two ancient sherds from Kutki. As a result of mineralogical analysis of fired and unfired test bodies of these pottery clays and pot sherds, two different types of pastes were determined for pottery production in the Lake Van region: metamorphic and volcanic paste, the former characterized by a calcite-poor and mica-sericite-rich matrix and the latter by large smectite and small calcite contents.