Indigeneity and innovation of early Islamic glaze technology: the case of the Coptic Glazed Ware

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© 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. This study investigates how the technology of Coptic Glazed Ware (CGW) – which is one of the earliest examples of Islamic glazed pottery – was developed, allowing for an insight into the mechanisms that contributed to the making of early Islamic material culture. The range of technologies of 20 CGW samples recovered from different sites in Israel was reconstructed, based on the characterisations by thin-section petrography, optical microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy energy-dispersive spectrometry. Our results show that the samples were originated from Aswan, Egypt. The procurement of kaolinitic clay from local deposits to form the ceramic body and slip, as well as the preference of painting as the principal mode of decoration, represents a continuation of the local fine ware tradition (Egyptian red and white slip ware and Coptic painted ware). The use of lead glaze was more akin to the Byzantine glaze technology. The CGW technology is further distinguished by the use of a diverse range of colourants and how the coloured glazes were prepared. Although individual elements of the CGW technology display influences from preceding and contemporaneous pottery technologies, it was not until the production of CGW that all these elements were combined together for the first time, highlighting the innovative character of the CGW technology. We argue that such innovation was born out of a strong local fine ware tradition that was embedded in the landscape of highly specialized craft production, while stimulating by a desire to establish new identities and new material representations by the Arab-Muslim newcomers.

Glaze technology, Mediaeval ceramics, Early Islamic period, Egypt, Levant, Technological change
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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
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