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Parseh J Archaeol Stud 2019, 2(6): 123-141 Back to browse issues page
A Comparative Study of Islamic Medieval Pottery Motifs with Constellations
Nasrin Beyk Mohammadi 1, Sepideh Moradi Mohtasham2
1- Ph.D. Candidate, Archeology, Isfahan University of Art , beigmohammadi_nasrin@yahoo.com
2- M.A. in Archeology, University of BU-Ali Sina.
Abstract:   (7253 Views)
Archaeological evidence and the study of remains from prehistory to the Islamic era show that astronomy has been prevalent among ancient peoples for thousands of years. Astronomy made a great progress in the Islamic era and was used in both science and astrology. In the middle Islamic Period, the motifs used on pottery varied widely, so that the origins of pottery motifs on the one hand and the interpretation of its concepts on the other challenged scholars and has been caused disagreement and divisions between them, insofar one group refers to pre-Islamic influences especially the Sassanians and the other seeks to interpret it with the ideas of the community context in which these motifs were formed. The necessity of this research, therefore, is due to the vacuum felt by the authors in locating the purports of pottery motifs by an astronomical approach. The forgoing essay is rooted in questions such as "Should the origins of medieval pottery motifs be merely searched in the pre-Islamic era?", "How the constellations were reflected on the pottery motifs of this era?" The methodology of this paper is historical-analytical-comparative and based on and library studies. In the process of researching, we first done to gathering statistical samples from museums, drawing the motifs with CorelDraw software and matching the pottery designs with constellations and in the continuation of the research, library studies have been carried out to trace the semantic themes and meanings of historical documents. The achievement of a comparative study of pottery motifs with constellations showed that astronomy and constellation discussions formed part of the credence and beliefs of the medieval peoples that often incorporated with superstitions and supernatural beings. Therefore, some of the themes of pottery motifs can be attributed to superstitious beliefs of constellations.
Keywords: Pottery, Middle Ages, Constellations, Astronomy, Astrology.
Astronomy in Islamic times consists of two parts: Astrology (Astrology and Superstition) and Science (Vegetarianism, 2009: 20). Agriculture, prediction of phenomena such as, eclipse and calendar design and timing are the most important reasons to pay attention. Evidence suggests that astronomical rulings were popular during this time, so that the dependence of the affairs of life on the celestial bodies gave rise to a wide range of superstitions. Due to the prohibition on the use of gold, silver and metal utensils in the Islamic era, one of the important sources of this "pottery" era is the beliefs and values ​​of artists and clients in the motifs of Islamic pottery. Pottery has greatly improved in the Middle Ages, with a variety of pottery construction techniques, motifs and ornaments.
The origins of pottery motifs and the interpretation of its concepts have challenged, disagreed and multiplied the researchers. Hence the necessity of research on pottery of the Middle Ages is due to the lack of comprehensive research and void felt by the writers on the astronomical approach of pottery ornamentation.
Questions and Hypotheses: Two questions are asked, "Should the origins of the medieval pottery motifs be searched only in pre-Islamic times?" And "How have the constellations reflected the motifs?" Hypotheses state that "the similarities of the motifs of these two eras cannot be understood solely as the reason for their origin from the pre-Islamic era and must be found in the intellectual context of those who ordered them at that time and in social and political conditions" and "given the progress of astronomy and its influence. It is possible for people to trace the origin of motifs in constellations and astronomical topics. "
Methodology: The method of this research is historical-analytical-comparative based on library studies which initially collected statistical samples from museums, designed drawings with CorelDraw software, and compared pottery designs with constellations.
Matching the Pottery Motifs of the Middle Ages with the Constellations
This section of the paper studies the reflection of astronomy on medieval pottery motifs from two scientific and superstitious perspectives on the basis of different and common statistical examples of the time, which have not been studied from an astronomical approach so far. These works include three specimens of ceramics with scientific function and 11 specimens of astrology and superstitions that are further adapted to their motifs and themes by the constellations mentioned in the Suralququebb book.
Reflection of the Constellations on Pottery with Scientific Function
The scientific reflections of the constellations on the motifs include three containers held at the Ashmolean, Metropolitan and Boston Museum.
The designs on these three containers include the role of the sun in the center and the six famous planets (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) and the twelve eclipses that collectively exist on earthenware and can be used for special purposes such as education, Clay astrolabe set the calendar and courtyard because astronomy education and learning was in the hands of the rulers, scientists, and scholars at that time, and the limited number of these dishes confirms the public claim of the dishes.
Reflection of Constellations on Pottery Using Astrology (superstitions)
This section refers to the constellation symbols of the North Face, the Exterior Area, and the South Face on the pottery.
Deb Akbar: A blue-and-black plate with the role of a bear and 27 stars inside it and eight stars outside it (sixth century AH) is held at the Los Angeles Museum of Art. (Dehkhoda, 1373: below Deb Akbar).
Figures (inflamed): Plate of Zarrinfam (6th and 7th centuries AH) with human role in his hand 11 stars and outside those two stars, made in Kashan, is kept at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. (Sufi, 2002: 44).
Essence: Enamel plate (6th and 7th centuries AH) with the role of a woman sitting on a 13-star bed, made in Kashan at the Metrolithin Museum. (Sufi, 2002: 74).
Nasr Ta'air: From the north faces is a bird that is adaptable to the two eagle (5th and 6th century AH at the David Museum) and vulture (6th and 7th century AH at the Metropolitan Museum) there are nine stars inside it and six stars outside it. (Sufi, 2002: 102)
Al-Fars al-Thani: A Seljuk-era gold plate with a winged horse and 20 stars inside it, built in the city of Rey, is kept at the Metropolitan Museum (Sufi, 2002: 109).
Thor: Gross-style green pottery with the role of a cow and 33 stars inside it and 11 stars outside it (5th and 6th centuries AH) is preserved in the Sincinati Museum. (Sufi, 2002: 129).
Cancer: Porcelain clay molded with white monochrome glaze with 9 stars inside it and four stars outside it (5th and 6th centuries AH) probably produced by Kashan or Ray and is kept in the British Museum. (Sufi, 2002: 148).
Assad: The Golden Lion Bowl with the role of a lion inside him of 27 stars and outside of the eight stars (sixth century AH) made by Kashan is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Sufi, 2002: 152).
Kolb and Arneb: The Albarlow-style Zinfam jar with the role of dog and rabbit (sixth century AH) made by Kashan is kept at the Brooklyn Museum. (Sufi, 2002: 230, 233)
Courageous: The bowl is kept in the Boston Museum by painting it under the snake's glaze inside the 25 stars and outside those two stars, related to the Seljuk era, made by Kashan. (Sufi, 2002: 250)
The comparative study of medieval pottery motifs with constellations shows that astronomy and its topics were widely popular among the people of this period because of the rulers' support for it in both scientific and superstitious dimensions. Also, the twelve-face facial motifs, with the greatest number of illustrations, are of particular interest to the people of that time. Now the answer to the question, "Should the origins of medieval pottery motifs be searched only in the pre-Islamic era," said the origin and concept of many bizarre animal and human motifs derived from widespread superstitious beliefs about constellations in That is the era. In response to the second question, "How have the constellations reflected on the motifs?" It can be said that the male and female gender constellations come in two groups for special containers and single use, superstitiously derived from people's belief in supernatural powers. However, the illiteracy of the potter in this regard, and only the aesthetic attention, as well as the distortion of astronomy by superstitious beliefs, have made the difference between motifs and constellations.
Keywords: Pottery, Middle Ages, Constellations, Astronomy, Astrology.
Full-Text [PDF 2083 kb]   (2305 Downloads)    
Type of Study: Research | Subject: Special Archeology
Received: 2019/04/14 | Accepted: 2019/04/14 | Published: 2019/04/14
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Beyk Mohammadi N, Moradi Mohtasham S. A Comparative Study of Islamic Medieval Pottery Motifs with Constellations. Parseh J Archaeol Stud. 2019; 2 (6) :123-141
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