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Le forme del vetro: tecnologie a confronto. Produzioni vitree e invetriate in Sicilia, Italia peninsulare, Ifrīqiya e al-Andalus tra IX e XI secolo

Continuity and innovation in glazed tableware consumption in North Africa from the Fatimid to Zirid periods

The case of Islamic Utica
Elena Salinas, Paul Reynolds et Trinitat Pradell
p. 285-300

Résumé

Excavations in the former Roman port of Utica (North Tunisia) by the University of Oxford and the INP (Tunisie) have revealed an area of medieval Islamic houses in the area of the Roman forum. Stratified sequences of pottery have established four main phases of occupation which would appear to span the mid-10th to mid-11th century. The range of glazed wares and other classes of pottery is summarised per phase and a detailed study of the glaze technologies of 23 samples through time can now be compared with the study of 14 vessels previously published from Bir Ftouha, near Carthage. The Utica assemblage demonstrates that there were major changes in the consumption of glazed wares from the late Fatimid period to Zirid independent rule, not only in relation to forms and types of decoration but also in terms of glazing techniques. Up to six different glazing techniques have been identified, including transparent and opaque glazes and overglaze and underglaze decoration. Moreover, the presence of several glaze imports has been detected, showing that glazed pottery other than those produced in the central region of Ifriqiya was being consumed in North Tunisia. This work also provides relevant information with regard to the production and consumption of glazed wares in medieval Tunisia during the 10th and 11th centuries.

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Notes de l’auteur

The ceramics sampled here were finds from the Tunisian-British excavations at Utica conducted by the INP-Tunisie (Imed Ben Jerbania, Faouzi Ghozzi, dirs.) and the University of Oxford (Elizabeth Fentress, Andrew Wilson, dirs.). We are most grateful to the Tunisian authorities for their permission to study them in Barcelona. This work received financial support from MINECO (Spain) (grant PID2019-105823RB-I00), the Generalitat de Catalunya (grant 2017 SGR 0042) and the Barakat Trust (Major Award 2019: for the project Early Islamic ceramics and culture in Tunisia: chronologies, sources and vessel use). The work also forms part of the activities of the ERAAUB, Consolidated Group 2017 SGR 1043.

Texte intégral

Introduction

1Glazed tablewares appear relatively early, in the 9th century, in the central and western Mediterranean, with continuity in the following centuries. In particular, we are fairly well informed of the production and chaîne opératoire of glazed ceramics in al-Andalus, or the consumption of glazed wares in Sicily, thanks to the existence of good archaeological contexts and/or archaeometric analysis.

  • 1 Daoulatli 1994; 1995; Gragueb 2004; 2006; 2013; 2017; Louhichi 1997, 2011; Gragueb – Touihri – Sac (...)
  • 2 Ben Amara et al. 2001; 2005; Capelli et al. 2011; Salinas et al. 2020.
  • 3 E.g. Reynolds 2012, Kalinowski 2005, for Bir Ftouha; Touihri 2016, for Althiburos.

2In the case of Ifriqiya (Tunisia), although various typological and decorative studies have been carried out since the last century, much of this work has been based on unstratified material without precise archaeological contextualisation and the means for more non-subjective dating. Consequently, although the glazed ceramics of the medieval period are, generally speaking, known and have been assigned to the Aghlabid, Fatimid or Zirid and later periods,1 their precise dating and consumption patterns are still vague and, in particular, there exist many gaps with regard to the ceramics associated with each ruling dynasty. Some archaeometric studies have been carried out which shed light on the glaze technology used and the characterisation of ceramic fabrics.2 From a typological point of view, some recent archaeological excavation results have also been published.3 However, the main problem is still the lack of studies from documented workshops and, in general, the lack of well-dated archaeological contexts or sequences.

3Within the different regions of Ifriqiya, the cities and palaces of Kairouan and environs (Raqqada and Sabra al-Mansuriya) in central Tunisia were the seat and core of the ruling Aghlabid and early Fatimid dynasties, where it is generally accepted that the first glaze production centres were located. However, it is still unclear whether glaze ware production spread from there to other Tunisian regions, on the east coast (Mahdiya, the first Fatimid capital, or Sousse) or to the north (e.g. Oudna, Carthage), for example, and if this was the case, when this technological transfer could have taken place (fig. 1, Map).

Fig. 1. Map of principal sites mentioned in the text.

Fig. 1. Map of principal sites mentioned in the text.
  • 4 Salinas et al. 2020.

4In the absence of well-defined workshops of local glazed wares, the documentation and analysis of wares and consumption patterns in northern Ifriqiya during the 10th-11th centuries from stratified contexts has been one way forward. For this purpose, we carried out a first study of the glazed pottery of the Fatimid period found in silos excavated at Bir Ftouha (near Carthage).4 Although the assemblage was small, in this first approach three different types of glazed wares were characterised: polychrome yellow/amber transparent glazed, monochrome yellow/amber transparent glazed and polychrome white-opaque (opacified with quartz) glazed wares. The study also evidenced the absence of tin-glazed wares. We were able to determine a technological innovation in the Fatimid period, that of the white opaque polychrome production, with respect to the previous yellow/amber transparent polychrome of the Aghlabid period. However, the study of this small assemblage gave us only a narrow view of consumption and change in the glazed tableware of the region.

  • 5 For a preliminary report on the excavations, see Fentress et al. 2014, Ben Jerbania et al. 2019.
  • 6 The full publication of the Islamic finds is in preparation and will appear with a monograph on th (...)

5The archaeological site of the ancient Roman port of Utica is located about 50 km to the north of Carthage, its rival in the late Republican period, now landlocked, as it probably was already prior to the Islamic conquest. Several archaeological campaigns by the University of Oxford and the INP-Tunisie have revealed an area of medieval Islamic houses and occupation over the 2nd century Roman forum.5 The excavations here have provided evidence for a sequence of four stratigraphic phases, all with glazed ceramics, spanning the mid-10th and mid-11th centuries.6 These roughly 100 years were marked not only by numerous changes in the location of the principal palaces and possibly associated artisans of the ruling dynasties but also by major political change in Ifriqiya, as the Fatimids left Ifriqiya for Egypt in 973, where they established their new capital, leaving the Algerian Berber Zirid dynasty in charge until they became independent (table 1).

Table 1. Ifriqiya: Historical periods and capitals.

Dynastic Rulers Capital Date
Umayyad Emirate (Byzantine Carthage was captured in 698) Kairouan 670-800
Aghlabid Emirate Kairouan (Palace of Al-Abbasiya: 809; Palace of Raqqada: 876) 800-909
Fatimid Caliphate Raqqada 909-921
Fatimid Caliphate Mahdiya 921-948
Fatimid Caliphate (Fatimid conquest of Egypt: foundation of Fustat in 969; Cairo in 973) Sabra al-Mansuriya 948-973
Zirid Emirate: 973-1048 Zirid independent rule of Ifriqiya: 1048-1148 Sabra al-Mansuriya (destroyed 1057) 973-1057
Zirid independent rule of Ifriqiya Mahdiya 1057-1148

6These archaeological phases roughly correspond to the periods of political change outlined (table 2): Phase I dating to the Fatimid Caliphate, Phases II and III dating to the Zirid dependent Emirate, and Phase IV to Zirid independent rule in Ifriqiya. A total of 23 glazed ceramics have been archaeometrically studied from these four phases. Statistics of the different ceramic types found associated with the different phases are given in Table 3. A principal objective was to determine whether there was any correlation between these observed political changes and the technological, typological, decorative styles and consumption patterns of glazed wares in Ifriqiya over this period. The study of the ceramic assemblage found in Utica together with that of Bir Ftouha has helped to obtain a more complete picture of glazed tableware consumption in this northern region.

Table 2. Phases, archaeological context and glazed samples from the Utica archaeological excavation (Area 2 West): N is the number of glaze ceramics sampled.

Phase

Suggested Date Dynasty Archaeological context GL Sampled

IA

950-960 FATIMID Silo 2358 & Pit 2382 N=6

IB

960-980 FATIMID Building VIII N=3

II

980-1000 ZIRID Building IV Fatimid coin AD 979/980 N=6

III

Early 11th ZIRID Building IV silos N=4

IV

Mid-11th INDEPENDENT ZIRID Robbing Forum walls Construction Building III N=3

IV/

Post-IV

Mid-11th INDEPENDENT ZIRID Silos in abandoned B III -

The Pottery from Utica: phases, forms and dating

  • 7 Bass et al. 2004. These vessels, however, are not illustrated in volume I (e.g. in fig. 15-5), but (...)

7The earliest Islamic occupation identified on the site comprises two silos (or pits) in Area 2 West (Phase IA), which should belong to a house nearby (perhaps the first building of Area 2 North?). These were sealed by the construction of Building VIII (Phase IB). Key dating evidence for Phase II, marked by the abandonment of Building VIII and the construction of Building IV, are a glass weight and coin which both provide a terminus-post-quem of 979/980 AD, and for Phase III - continued occupation in Building IV -, a lamp with curled handle and a two-handled narrow-necked jug, both forms being documented on the Serçe Limani shipwreck, which sank off Bodrum c. 1025-1030 AD.7 This would place Phase I in the late Fatimid period and Phases II-IV in the Zirid period. There is, furthermore, a clear distinction in the ceramics and material culture of Fatimid Phase I and Zirid Phases II-III. It is possible, but still unclear, that this is evidence for a hiatus between the Fatimid and Zirid Phases of occupation in this area of the site, as there would seem to be no time for the evolution of the ‘Zirid’ cultural assemblage (fig. 2a-c). These phases do, at least, provide the means to break down and identify over 100 years of development of the range of glazed wares and other ceramics that would have been previously dated simply to the ‘Fatimid-Zirid period’.

Fig. 2a. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases I-II.

Fig. 2a. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases I-II.

Fig.  2b. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases III-IV

Fig.  2b. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases III-IV

Fig. 2c. Guide to other forms (lamps, plain wares and amphorae) at Utica, Phases I-IV

Fig. 2c. Guide to other forms (lamps, plain wares and amphorae) at Utica, Phases I-IV

Table 3. Pottery classes per phase, including relative number of glazed vessels per phase versus similar unglazed forms in Area 2 West. PL: Plain wares (unglazed bowls, dishes, jugs, jars, jarritos, mortars and basins); AMPH: amphorae; CW: Cooking wares; Open GL and Open PL (dishes, bowls only).

Table 3. Pottery classes per phase, including relative number of glazed vessels per phase versus similar unglazed forms in Area 2 West. PL: Plain wares (unglazed bowls, dishes, jugs, jars, jarritos, mortars and basins); AMPH: amphorae; CW: Cooking wares; Open GL and Open PL (dishes, bowls only).
  • 8 According to ceramic finds excavated at Raqqada (not Kairouan, the Aghlabid capital) and dated to (...)
  • 9 The phrase ‘al-Mulku Lillah’, refers to the 67th chapter of the Quran on the theme of ‘the Soverei (...)
  • 10 Daoulatli 1994, p. 82, 96, 116, fig. 56. This is a well-known formula in the ceramic repertoire ex (...)

8Phase I contexts have provided glazed wares, primarily small bowls with a plain or notched rim (Utica GL Bowl 1 and 4, respectively), in an evolution of Aghlabid ‘Jaune de Raqqada’ ware,8 characterised by a polychrome decorated transparent often glossy yellow/amber glaze and vegetal, geometric and epigraphic decoration, such as arcs and parallel vertical lines on the inner and outer wall and a single lotus flower or the word ‘al-Mulk’9 on the floor, drawn in brown lines with fills in green (fig. 2a, top). A much larger bowl from Raqqada of likely late Aghlabid date bears the same words and dark yellow/amber glaze but there are eight radiating words and these are more carefully drawn.10 The Utica pieces may therefore be later, Fatimid period examples. The typical 9th century Tunisian Aghlabid decorative schemes of birds and geometric (Berber) patterns on a somewhat lighter yellow background are absent. It may be significant, as possible evidence of their earlier date, that the epigraphic and lotus motifs - at least two examples of each - were found only in Phase IA, in the two silos-pits (UT 2358, UT 2382) that were sealed by the construction of Building VIII (Phase IB).

  • 11 For a yellow and green glazed example from Carthage, see Vitelli 1981, fig. 59.1709 (reproduced as (...)

9Plain wares (unglazed) for table ware consumption are also present (fig. 2c), small and large bowls, jarritos (probably large drinking vessels), jugs and Utica Lamp 1, a well-known wheel-made type with a solid cone handle and short spout.11

  • 12 See note 10: Gragueb 2011.

10Phases II-III (c. 980-early 11th century) are the most documented periods of building and occupation on the site and are marked by major changes in the ceramic repertoire in all classes with respect to Phase I (fig. 2a-c). The Raqqada-type polychrome yellow/amber glazed vessels continue, especially in Phase II, where they still dominate, but there appear now new glazed forms with a (usually light) green glaze, e.g. the large carinated GL Bowl 11A, with an all-over green colouring (e.g. fig. 2a, UT 2247.33), a small jar or cup form with lid seat (e.g. fig. 2a, UT 2231.23) or vessels with decoration in black stripes (e.g. fig. 2a, Glazed Bowl 6, UT 2232.1). In Phase III (early 11th century: fig. 2b) the range of forms and types of polychrome decorated on white or cream background glazed wares increases substantially, with vessels painted with lozenges (leaves?: e.g. UT 2329.5, 2329.6), lattices (Glazed Bowl 8, UT 2301.5), wavy double lines (again UT 2301.5, lower section), or pseudo-Cufic words in brown/black with the same green colouring (e.g. Glazed Bowl 9, UT 2301.8; UT 2301.12). Some resemble the aforementioned Aghlabid products on cream or white background found in Kairouan.12

  • 13 See Gragueb et al. 2011, Capelli et al. 2011, with a range of finds not encountered so far at Utic (...)

11These green glaze vessels, in various tones from dark or bright green to a pale, almost turquoise colour, really stand out in the assemblage, with a larger variety of forms and decoration appearing in Phase III, despite the fewer numbers of glazed wares (table 3: 44 vessels in Phase II, 32 vessels in Phase III). The fabrics suggest that these were produced in the region of Kairouan-Raqqada-Sabra. Their rarity so far at Sabra is surely due to the later date of the contexts so far excavated on the site.13

12Also appearing in Phases II-III for the first time are glazed fragments with ‘complex-decoration’ over a white ground, the majority being unintelligible because of their fragmentary state (e.g. fig. 2b, UT 2301.7).

  • 14 For an example of this lamp type, also unglazed, from Carthage-Ste. Monique, see Vitelli 1981, p.  (...)

13The non-glazed forms (fig. 2c) include wheel-made lamps, now with a longer spout and semi-curled (Phase II), then fully curled handle (Phase III) (Lamp 2),14 as well as small, medium and large carinated bowls and dishes with partly burnished surfaces in Phase II (e.g. PL Bowl 6A, PL Dish 6C) and Phase III (e.g. PL Bowl 4B and PL Dish 4A and 5, with a characteristic tall foot bearing mouldings), presumably as alternative tableware. Large basins were also produced in this burnished ware. The wide range of small bowls typical of Phase I is reduced to PL Bowl 1E (e.g. UT 2298.1), which continues in Phase II as an evolution of PL Bowl 1B. Such bowls are even scarcer in Phase III (e.g. PL Bowl 1J). The flanged-neck amphorae (AM 1) of Phase I continue, but in Phase II there appear other examples with a more open rim or with a concave inner face (AM 6B), both suggestive of the use of a lid to seal the neck of the amphora. Several new, larger amphora forms also appear (large handles, combed and wavy line decoration). Jarritos continue in Phase II, but are less common in Phase III (table 3).

14The pottery of Phase IV is largely associated with the robbing of the forum walls (e.g. robber fills UT 2064 and UT 2079, with a lot of residual pre-Islamic material) and then a new domestic building (Building III), with very little pottery.

  • 15 The ware is usually in a dense reddish brown-pale maroon fabric and surfaces, though these can als (...)
  • 16 For forms and fabrics at Bir Ftouha, see Reynolds 2012, p. 250-268.
  • 17 The Sicilian amphora form with `collar rim`, Sacco Type XIII, is rare: it appears in Phase IA (sin (...)
  • 18 The archaeometric analyses are funded by the Barakat Trust project Early Islamic ceramics and cult (...)

15The source of the burnished ware has yet to be established but could be north Tunisian (close to Utica?).15 As in Bir Ftouha, the majority of the glazed wares, lamps and plain wares such as pierced-neck jugs, small flanged bowls (Phase I) and small Bowl 1 with a flat base (all phases) are in calcareous quartz-rich fabrics typical of the region of Kairouan, in its widest sense (the amphorae of Roman Sullecthum/Salakta also have a similar calcareous fabric).16 Whereas some jarritos and other large bowls may well be related to the burnished ware, others are in a different, calcareous ware (northern Tunisia? Sicily? Agrigento?). The majority of the amphorae have a distinctive fine, compact fabric with limestone inclusions which may be Sicilian or Tunisian.17 A large archaeometric study of the Utica and Bir Ftouha assemblages (thin-section petrology and chemical analyses) is in course to sort out these problems.18

  • 19 Reynolds 2012, p. 264-265.
  • 20 For a comparison between the Islamic material from the Canadian and American excavations, see Reyn (...)
  • 21 Reynolds 2012, fig. 22.

16The pottery of the Canadian excavations of four Islamic silos at Bir Ftouha was initially dated as late Fatimid or, more likely, Zirid late 10th century.19 However, considering that the typical green-glazed vessels and burnished carinated bowls of Zirid Phases II-IV at Utica are absent, these Bir Ftouha silos should largely pre-date them.20 There are no examples with ‘al-Mulk’, but the ware with ‘complex’ decoration on white ground (cf. UT 2301.7) is present. Utica GL Bowl 1, not that common in Utica, is the most common glazed form at Bir Ftouha, whereas notched-rim GL Bowl 4, the most common form in Utica Phase I, is absent (or scarce). The most striking piece at Bir Ftouha is an example of the so-called ‘Dame de Sabra’ type.21 In short, a date in the Fatimid mid-10th century seems now more likely.

Analysis of glazed ceramics from Utica

  • 22 For a more detailed presentation of these analyses, including illustration of all the vessels samp (...)

17A total of twenty-three glazed sherds from Utica (nineteen polychrome sherds and four monochrome) are here studied, chosen to be as representative as possible from Phases I-IV, as indicated in Tables 3 and 4.22

18Ceramic bodies and glazes were examined with an Optical Microscope and analysed with Scanning Electron Microscope with attached Energy Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). After examination, up to six different glaze ware technologies have been distinguished according to the glaze colour/s and the transparency/opacity of the glaze: Polychrome underglaze decorated Transparent Amber glazed ware (TA), Polychrome overglaze decorated Opaque White glazed ware (OW), Monochrome Opaque Green glazed ware (OG), Monochrome Opaque Yellow glazed ware (OY), Polychrome underglaze Transparent Uncoloured glazed ware (TU), and Monochrome Transparent Pale-Green glazed ware (TG). In all the cases, the opacity of the glazes was obtained adding crushed quartz particles and not tin oxide particles.

  • 23 Ben Amara et al. 2005.

19There is a main group with ceramic fabrics of high calcareous type, buff or reddish colour with round quartz, fossils and elongated porosity similar to those found in Bir Ftouha and also described by other authors as characteristic of Tunisia,23 which includes the TA, OW, OG and OY wares. The ceramic fabrics of the polychrome TU and TG wares are different and an origin outside Tunisia for some, at least, is likely.

Table 4. The types of glazes according to each sample, by phase. $ unstratified find. *UT2232.1 glaze completely altered, maybe TU as well, assigned here because of the fabric.

Type Glaze Decoration Sherds
Polychrome Transparent Amber (TA) Underglaze Phase IA: N=6
Phase IB: N=2, 1$
Phase II: N=4
Transparent Uncoloured (TU) Underglaze Phase III: N=3
Opaque White (OW) Overglaze Phase II: N=1*
Phase III: N=1
Phase IV: N=1
Monochrome Opaque Green (OG) Phase II: N=1
Phase IV: N=1
Opaque Yellow (OY) Phase III: N=1
Transparent pale-Green (TG) Phase IV: N=1

3.1. Polychrome glazed ware

  • 24 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2a-b.
  • 25 Ben Amara et al. 2001.
  • 26 Salinas et al. 2020.
  • 27 Ben Amara et al. 2005.

20The earliest polychrome ware and the most numerous group (TA) is represented by 13 samples and it was decorated under an amber transparent glaze (fig. 2a).24 This is the only ware in Phase I of the Fatimid period and it continues into Zirid Phase II alongside other new products. The ware represents a continuation of the Aghlabid technological tradition.25 The samples present high lead glazes (47-70% PbO), relatively rich in aluminium (~3.2% Al2O3) and iron content (~2.3% FeO) (table 5), which gives the yellow/amber colour to the glaze. The colour decoration is in copper-green and manganese-brown and applied underglaze (fig. 3) (this is over the ceramic surface before the glaze is applied). This polychrome transparent amber glaze production was also documented at Bir Ftouha26 and at Sabra al-Mansuriya.27

Fig. 3. Polychrome Transparent Amber glazed ware. (A) Sample (UT 2358.11). (B) Bright and (C) Dark field Optical Images from the brown-green decoration. The bright particles visible in the left brown area are associated with manganese oxide particles, demonstrating that the decoration was applied underglaze.

Fig. 3. Polychrome Transparent Amber glazed ware. (A) Sample (UT 2358.11). (B) Bright and (C) Dark field Optical Images from the brown-green decoration. The bright particles visible in the left brown area are associated with manganese oxide particles, demonstrating that the decoration was applied underglaze.

21The second polychrome glaze group (TU) is represented by three analysed samples and is recorded in Zirid Phase III, of the early 11th century (fig. 2b, UT 2301.2, UT 2301.7, UT 2301.13). The glazes are also of the high lead type (66–73% PbO). The main difference with the previous group is that the glaze is not amber but transparent; this is due to the low iron content (0.3% FeO) (table 5). The white colour of the background is obtained by the bleaching of the surface ceramic. Copper-green and manganese-brown pigments were applied underglaze to obtain the coloured decoration. A yellow decoration obtained using an iron oxide pigment (~1%FeO) is also identified in one of the samples (GL Bowl 10, UT 2301.2). A number of vessels illustrated here that were not sampled would appear to belong to this TU group, and also have a pink fabric with lime reactions similar to that of UT 2301.2, but the forms are unlikely to be Palermitan (i.e. fig. 2b, UT 2301.5; UT 2329.5; UT 2329.6; UT 2301.10-11).

  • 28 Salinas et al. 2020.

22The third polychrome group (OW) is represented by three samples from Phases II, III and IV and is relatively uncommon (fig. 4; fig. 2b, UT 2301.17, UT 2307.2, UT 2064.1). They are also of a high lead type (65-70% PbO) (table 5) and have a surface bleached with saltwater. This group presents two innovations with regard to the previous ones: the glaze is not transparent but opaque, with the green-copper and brown-manganese decoration being applied over-glaze, not under-glaze (fig. 4). The white glaze was opacified with crushed quartz particles and here represents a technological innovation. These samples appear in the Zirid phases at Utica, although the same type was also present (earlier) at Bir Ftouha.28

Fig. 4. Polychrome Opaque White glazed ware.

Fig. 4. Polychrome Opaque White glazed ware.

(A) Sample (UT 2064.1). (B) SEM-BSE Image of a cross-section of the white glaze showing large crushed quartz particles, (C) Bright Field Optical image of the brown decoration showing the manganese oxide particles on top (marked with arrows).

Monochrome glazed ware

23This assemblage is present in Zirid Phases II, III and IV. Single colour glazes can be green, pale green or yellow. They have not been identified at Bir Ftouha, possibly due to their later chronology. This group comprises:

24- Opaque Green glazed ware (fig. 2a: GL Jar 1; GL Bowl 11A). It should be noted that the presence or absence of decoration may be fortuitous in the case of the forms chosen for sampling, as both forms can be found with decoration, usually as vertical panels (cf. fig. 2b, Glazed Bowl 11B, UT 2301.3). Small Glazed Bowl 5B should also be included here (fig. 2b). The glazes are of high lead type (60-65% PbO) mixed with a large amount of crushed quartz grains that give them opacity (fig. 5). The green-turquoise colour was obtained by the addition of copper oxide (3.5% CuO) (table 5).

  • 29 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2b, appearing incorrectly as 2301.1.

25A unique Opaque Yellow glazed vessel (a pierced-neck jug, UT 2301.16)29 is also of a high lead type (65% PbO) and was opacified by crushed quartz particles and bubbles. The yellow colour is due to the presence of lead antimonite particles (table 5).

  • 30 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2b.

26A unique Transparent pale-Green glazed vessel (cup or closed form base, UT 2279.2).30 The glaze is a high lead type (57% PbO), but is relatively high in aluminium (4.4% Al2O3) and calcium (3.3% CaO). The glaze is transparent and quartz particles are not present. The pale green colour was obtained by the addition of a pigment containing mainly copper (1.6% CuO), with some nickel, tin and zinc (table 5).

Fig. 5. Polychrome Opaque Green glazed ware.

Fig. 5. Polychrome Opaque Green glazed ware.

(A) Sample (UT 2231.23), (B) Dark Field Optical image of a cross-section of the green monochrome glaze, (C) SEM-BSE Image of a cross-section of the green glaze showing large crushed quartz particles.

Table 5. SEM-EDS analysis of the glazes.

Table 5. SEM-EDS analysis of the glazes.

A: amber, B: brown, G: green; W: white; U: uncoloured; Y: yellow. Average chemical composition taken from N samples. Standard deviations were below 10% of the average value. *This sample has not been averaged because it has a different fabric.

Conclusions: Glazed wares in Islamic Utica

  • 31 Daoulatli 1995, fig. 40; Reynolds 2012, fig. 2.

27The sequence of phases and deposits established in Utica provide a key framework for the dating of the glaze ware production and consumption in northern Tunisia during the 10th and 11th centuries that has hitherto largely relied on a more subjective approach due to the lack of stratified material. We are thus able to offer some illumination of the picture of consumption of glazed wares in northern Tunisia during the lesser-known period of the transition from Fatimid to Zirid rule. Studies of Tunisian glazed wares have mainly focused on the earlier Aghlabid and Fatimid periods, and on the central region, the heart of Ifriqiya, including the first glazed pottery production centre(s) of Kairouan, for a long time, the seat of the Ifriqiyan ruling dynasties. The most well-known examples of early glazed wares are Aghlabid Jaune de Raqqada ware, with a yellow/amber background, often decorated with bird motifs as well as geometric and epigraphic motifs, and the Fatimid series depicting human figures, such as horsemen or the ‘Dame de Sabra’ (Fatima), with a white background. Though one more example of the latter, identical to one of the Sabra pieces, was found in Bir Ftouha,31 no clear examples of human representation have been discovered in Utica, although polychrome with a white background pieces are also present.

28The glazed wares from Utica demonstrate both continuity and innovation, the latter being evident from the Zirid period. Polychrome TA and OW glazed wares are found at both Utica and Bir Ftouha. The former is characterised by an amber-coloured background enriched with iron, and the decoration is painted underglaze. For the second, the opaque white background was achieved adding large amounts of crushed quartz particles and decoration was applied over-glaze.

29At Utica, where occupation has been documented over a longer period, new wares appear that had not previously been identified at Bir Ftouha, such as Polychrome TU and Monochrome OG, OY and TG. The two new regional products of the Zirid period were monochrome OG and OY glazes. The opaque background was obtained by crushed quartz grains, while the colours were achieved by adding copper for green and lead antimonite particles for yellow. It is important to note that there is still no trace of white glaze wares opacified with tin, despite the fact that this technology was being used in other Islamic regions of the Mediterranean basin, such as Syria, Egypt or nearby al-Andalus. So far, the absence of tin glazes during the Zirid period confirms the late introduction of tin-glaze technology in Ifriqiya.

  • 32 Cf. Testolini 2018, i.e. CP68, 191, appendix 2, 25.
  • 33 This pale-green glazed ware has been analysed for us in the Barcelona Research Centre in Multiscal (...)

30Phase III marks an increase in underpainted polychrome vessels with transparent glaze (TU), most with a pink fabric with lime reactions. One, possibly two, of these vessels and fabric compare well with some Sicilian-Palermitan products (i.e. fig. 2b, UT 2301.2 and UT 2301.7).32 Further archaeometry of the fabrics is needed to determine whether the other TU vessels with pink fabrics belong to other workshops and if these are Sicilian or Tunisian. Another import, is a single example of a TG glaze (pre-Phase IV, UT 2279.2), a cup or small closed form, with a different colour glaze, obtained with a copper-nickel-zinc-tin colourant, and a ceramic fabric with abundant micas, which recalls one of the glazed wares of Almeria, dated to the 11th-12th centuries.33

31An assessment of the relative importance of glazed vessels at Utica can be gauged from Table 3. The percentage of open glazed forms per phase is the highest in Phase I (22 vessels, 16.5% of the total pottery; 18 vessels, 17.4% in the case of Phase IA). Although there were as many as 43 open glazed vessels documented in Zirid Phase II, these represent a relatively marked drop (43 vessels, 10.6% of the total pottery), with numbers rising again in Phase III (30 vessels, 13.9% of the total pottery).

32With a closer regard to function, if we consider the respective roles of glazed bowl and dish forms (total 98 vessels) and their possible plain ware equivalents as tableware (total 229 vessels), there is a marked drop in the percentage of glazed bowls and dishes with respect to non-glazed equivalents in Phase II (Phase IA: 40.9%; Phase II: 24.4%), with the majority appearing in the new burnished ware. The relative number of glazed bowls and dishes then rises again in Phase III (38.4%), with burnished forms being still relatively common.

33To summarise, Phase I was almost entirely comprised of Central Tunisian ‘Jaune de Raqqada’ wares (TA), with these continuing into Zirid Phase II (late 10th century), becoming scarcer in Phase III (early 11th century). Zirid Phase II marked the introduction of Central Tunisian polychrome opaque white and monochrome opaque green glaze products. These continued in Zirid Phase III but with a major increase in polychrome underglaze painted wares with transparent glaze in pink fabrics, some with Sicilian parallels. At the end of Phase III there was one monochrome pale-green transparent glazed vessel from al-Andalus, with clear Almerian parallels. The overall trend suggests an increase in imports in the early 11th century.

  • 34 For the role of Mahdiya as the principal port of Ifriqiya during the Fatimid and Zirid periods, pr (...)
  • 35 For the amphora types of the wreck, studied by Evelina Todorova, see Todorova 2018.

34For now, there is still no evidence of nearby glazed ware workshops in northern Ifriqiya. It seems that the production centres around Kairouan continued to be the main suppliers of glazed wares to the north, but were no longer the only ones.34 The first imports, even in small numbers, from elsewhere in the Mediterranean are beginning to be detected in the early 11th century, incorporating new shapes, colours, decorations and techniques. These changes suggest a decentralisation in the production and trade of glazed pottery within Central Tunisia and an increase in the marketing of glazed tablewares from the (primarily central) western Mediterranean. We are here reminded of the Serçe Limani wreck of 1025-1030 which may have passed by Sicily or the port of Tabarka at some stage of its journey prior to sinking off Bodrum with its cargo of Beirut glazed wares, Levantine glass waste and south-western Pontic amphorae.35

  • 36 For trends in amphora imports across the Mediterranean, see Archeologia Medievale XLV (2018), pass (...)

35This small-scale increase in imported wares in the early 11th century would seem to be the prolegomena of what will happen from the mid-late- 11th century onwards, with a major increase in Sicilian amphora imports being detected at Sabra al-Mansuriya and then, in the 12th century, a much greater volume of glazed pottery and amphorae being distributed around the ports of the central and western Mediterranean, a phenomenon which has been extensively documented archaeologically elsewhere.36

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Notes

1 Daoulatli 1994; 1995; Gragueb 2004; 2006; 2013; 2017; Louhichi 1997, 2011; Gragueb – Touihri – Sacco 2019.

2 Ben Amara et al. 2001; 2005; Capelli et al. 2011; Salinas et al. 2020.

3 E.g. Reynolds 2012, Kalinowski 2005, for Bir Ftouha; Touihri 2016, for Althiburos.

4 Salinas et al. 2020.

5 For a preliminary report on the excavations, see Fentress et al. 2014, Ben Jerbania et al. 2019.

6 The full publication of the Islamic finds is in preparation and will appear with a monograph on the excavations.

7 Bass et al. 2004. These vessels, however, are not illustrated in volume I (e.g. in fig. 15-5), but were studied and drawn by Paul Reynolds for a future publication of the pottery finds from the ship.

8 According to ceramic finds excavated at Raqqada (not Kairouan, the Aghlabid capital) and dated to the Aghlabid 9th century by Daoulatli (1994; 1995). Raqqada was the first Fatimid capital and it is highly likely that ceramic production continued there under the Fatimids.

9 The phrase ‘al-Mulku Lillah’, refers to the 67th chapter of the Quran on the theme of ‘the Sovereignty (or Kingdom) of God’.

10 Daoulatli 1994, p. 82, 96, 116, fig. 56. This is a well-known formula in the ceramic repertoire excavated at Raqqada. For other, quite different (supposedly Aghlabid) examples of decorative schemes of ’al-Mulk’ in green, primarily on hemispherical or large, straight-sided bowls with a cream white ground, found in Raqqada, but absent here, see Gragueb 2011, figs. 6, 7, 9-17. Of the 139 examples of glazed bowls, this particular ware comprised 37 vessels. Some of our pieces in Phases II and III resemble them, but they are different.

11 For a yellow and green glazed example from Carthage, see Vitelli 1981, fig. 59.1709 (reproduced as fig. 136 in Reynolds 2012). This is a well-known lamp type usually dated to the Aghlabid period (Gragueb 2017; Gragueb – Touihri – Sacco 2019, fig. 23.1).

12 See note 10: Gragueb 2011.

13 See Gragueb et al. 2011, Capelli et al. 2011, with a range of finds not encountered so far at Utica. We are extremely grateful to Jean-Christophe Tréglia for sharing with us, prior to its hopefully imminent publication, the report on the stratified ceramic finds of the French excavations in Sabra, some associated with a ceramic bar kiln-workshop (with blue-turquoise glazed vessels present: sampled in Capelli et al. 2011). Though there are contexts dated to the second half of the 10th century (largely following the dating of the glass?: Foy 2012, 2020), these are few in comparison to the bulk of the material, which, like the amphorae and other ceramic finds already published in 2011, include Sicilian amphorae and painted jugs, as well as local glazed and non-glazed forms not present at Utica. Equally striking is the absence of the unglazed, burnished tableware that is so common in Utica. In short, the bulk of the pottery would seem to date to the mid- or late 11th century (and later?).

14 For an example of this lamp type, also unglazed, from Carthage-Ste. Monique, see Vitelli 1981, p. 123, fig. 59.1700 (reproduced as fig. 138 in Reynolds 2012). It is this type which was found on the Serçe Limani wreck.

15 The ware is usually in a dense reddish brown-pale maroon fabric and surfaces, though these can also be fired pale yellow. A similar ware was produced in Palermo, but is not common there (or in Sicily, in general?) (Viva Sacco, pers. comm., with thanks).

16 For forms and fabrics at Bir Ftouha, see Reynolds 2012, p. 250-268.

17 The Sicilian amphora form with `collar rim`, Sacco Type XIII, is rare: it appears in Phase IA (single examples in UT 2306 – the build-up over the Forum pavement prior to construction- and UT 2358) and in pre-Phase IV, the Forum robber fill UT 2079, two possible examples; three other examples were found in Area 2 North in phases equivalent to Area 2 West (Phases I and II/III). The painted narrow-bodied Sicilian amphorae typical of Palermo (Faccenna A / D’Angelo E1/2) are absent.

18 The archaeometric analyses are funded by the Barakat Trust project Early Islamic ceramics and culture in Tunisia: chronologies, sources and vessel use.

19 Reynolds 2012, p. 264-265.

20 For a comparison between the Islamic material from the Canadian and American excavations, see Reynolds 2012, p. 265.

21 Reynolds 2012, fig. 22.

22 For a more detailed presentation of these analyses, including illustration of all the vessels sampled, see Salinas et al. 2022.

23 Ben Amara et al. 2005.

24 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2a-b.

25 Ben Amara et al. 2001.

26 Salinas et al. 2020.

27 Ben Amara et al. 2005.

28 Salinas et al. 2020.

29 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2b, appearing incorrectly as 2301.1.

30 Salinas et al. 2022, fig. 2b.

31 Daoulatli 1995, fig. 40; Reynolds 2012, fig. 2.

32 Cf. Testolini 2018, i.e. CP68, 191, appendix 2, 25.

33 This pale-green glazed ware has been analysed for us in the Barcelona Research Centre in Multiscale Science and Engineering but is unpublished.

34 For the role of Mahdiya as the principal port of Ifriqiya during the Fatimid and Zirid periods, prior to its eclipse by Tunis from the second half of the 11th century, see Reynolds 2012, p. 265-266.

35 For the amphora types of the wreck, studied by Evelina Todorova, see Todorova 2018.

36 For trends in amphora imports across the Mediterranean, see Archeologia Medievale XLV (2018), passim.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Map of principal sites mentioned in the text.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 507k
Titre Fig. 2a. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases I-II.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 740k
Titre Fig.  2b. Guide to glazed forms at Utica, Phases III-IV
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 466k
Titre Fig. 2c. Guide to other forms (lamps, plain wares and amphorae) at Utica, Phases I-IV
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 395k
Titre Table 3. Pottery classes per phase, including relative number of glazed vessels per phase versus similar unglazed forms in Area 2 West. PL: Plain wares (unglazed bowls, dishes, jugs, jars, jarritos, mortars and basins); AMPH: amphorae; CW: Cooking wares; Open GL and Open PL (dishes, bowls only).
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 66k
Titre Fig. 3. Polychrome Transparent Amber glazed ware. (A) Sample (UT 2358.11). (B) Bright and (C) Dark field Optical Images from the brown-green decoration. The bright particles visible in the left brown area are associated with manganese oxide particles, demonstrating that the decoration was applied underglaze.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 506k
Titre Fig. 4. Polychrome Opaque White glazed ware.
Légende (A) Sample (UT 2064.1). (B) SEM-BSE Image of a cross-section of the white glaze showing large crushed quartz particles, (C) Bright Field Optical image of the brown decoration showing the manganese oxide particles on top (marked with arrows).
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 388k
Titre Fig. 5. Polychrome Opaque Green glazed ware.
Légende (A) Sample (UT 2231.23), (B) Dark Field Optical image of a cross-section of the green monochrome glaze, (C) SEM-BSE Image of a cross-section of the green glaze showing large crushed quartz particles.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 502k
Titre Table 5. SEM-EDS analysis of the glazes.
Légende A: amber, B: brown, G: green; W: white; U: uncoloured; Y: yellow. Average chemical composition taken from N samples. Standard deviations were below 10% of the average value. *This sample has not been averaged because it has a different fabric.
URL http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/docannexe/image/12478/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 56k
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Elena Salinas, Paul Reynolds et Trinitat Pradell, « Continuity and innovation in glazed tableware consumption in North Africa from the Fatimid to Zirid periods »Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge, 135-2 | 2023, 285-300.

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Elena Salinas, Paul Reynolds et Trinitat Pradell, « Continuity and innovation in glazed tableware consumption in North Africa from the Fatimid to Zirid periods »Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 135-2 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2024, consulté le 23 juin 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/mefrm/12478 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/mefrm.12478

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Auteurs

Elena Salinas

Universidad de Almería, esalinas@ual.es

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Paul Reynolds

ICREA; ERAAUB, IAUB, Universitat de Barcelona, paulreynoldspot@hotmail.com

Trinitat Pradell

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya BarcelonaTech, trinitat.pradell@upc.edu

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