Two Rare Early Abbasid Paint-Decorated Ceramic Bowls from el-Khirba/Nes Ziyyona, Israel

In: Muqarnas Online
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  • 1 Head of Pottery Specializations Branch, Archaeological Research Department, Israel Antiquities Authority
  • | 2 Senior Curator of the Islamic Periods, National Treasures Department, Israel Antiquities Authority
  • | 3 Archaeologist, Israel Antiquities Authority Central ­District
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This article discusses two near-complete ceramic vessels—a deep, cup-shaped bowl and a shallow bowl/plate—found in recent excavations carried out at the rural site of el-Khirba/Nes Ziyyona in central Israel, in an early Abbasid context dated to the ninth century. The vessels bear unusual painted decorations on their exterior and interior. The decoration of the first bowl consists of alternating pairs of large black and white palm trees and large birds. The second bowl/plate is decorated with eight stylized trees emerging from a central circle, with small circles between them; these motifs were drawn in black over a white-painted surface. These bowls are associated with a local fine ware ceramic group, known as Fine Byzantine (or Fine Islamic) Ware, which originated in the Jerusalem region. However, their decorations reflect stylistic traditions familiar across the Early Islamic Near East and beyond, including from statuary works, illustrated manuscripts, and other ceramics. Altogether, it can be suggested that rural elites in Early Islamic Palestine used luxury ceramics decorated with pan-Islamic patterns as a way of identifying themselves with cosmopolitan, pan-Islamic society.

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