Unit 5a: 7th Research Seminar on the History of

Middle Eastern Ceramics


Date: January 15th (Sat) and 16th (Sun), 2000.

Place: Okayama Orient Museum.



This was the first research seminar to be held within Group 5a. It took place at Okayama Orient Museum, featuring Dr. Bernard OユKANE from The American University in Cairo (School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Arabic Studies) as a guest speaker.

Bernard O'KANE: "The Development of Cuerda Seca Tileworks"

A polychrome-glaze painting technique called cuerda seca was often used in Spain. The term literally means "a dry line" in the indigenous language, and describes lines of special manganese paint partitioning the body surface to prevent glazes of different colors from mixing in the polychrome-glaze painting. In Islamic regions other than Spain, this technique was first used in the late 14th century on the ornamental tiles of the exterior walls of the Timurid mausolea in Shah-i Zinda, Samarqand. Past studies have suggested that cuerda seca had emerged abruptly as an inexpensive substitute for laborious and costly mosaic tiles. However, Dr. O'KANE showed that cuerda seca had derived from the overglaze painting technique that had been practiced in the times of the Saljuqs and the Ilkhanids, and that, in Timurid architechture, it was valued as an art form rather than merely an inexpensive substitute for mosaic tiles. Through chemical analyses, Dr. O'KANE also revealed that the paint used to separate different colors contained no grease and thatit was an inactive manganese substance.

TAKAHASHI Tadahisa: "Anatolian Potters; Case Studies on Gaziantep and Iznik"

Over several years TAKAHASHI has performed field investigations to examine the current circumstances and the technical features of the traditional Anatolian potters, who are now decreasing in number. In this seminar, he presented his studies on two particular cities; Gaziantep and Iznik.

Gaziantep is situated on a huge basal rock near the Syrian border. The city was called Ayintap, as in the chronicles of the Crusades, before the establishment of the republican government. The presence of neither earthenware nor potters in the times of the Ottomans has been confirmed despite the evidence of many other industries. Today a small number of potters produce simple red vessels in dug-out caves. The circular kiln extends vertically. Its fire room and the firing chamber, which has a metal lid on top, are not distinctively separated.

Iznik, which is located to the southwest of Istanbul, is known for the production of so-called "Iznik ceramics" during the Ottoman period. The paired kilns have been excavated in the central region of the city. However, it is not known why the kilns are always found in pairs. Although ceramics workshops are still present in Iznik, they no longer inherit the Iznik tradition from the Ottoman period.


Investigation of Shibatsuji Tile Collection

The Shibatsuji collection consists of over 200 tiles entrusted to the Okayama Orient Museum . Many of them are relatively recent works from the Qajar period of Iran. The collection also includes some 40 tiles of the late 12th century to the early 14th century, comprising luster-painted tiles, monochrome-glazed tiles, lajvardina tiles and overglaze-painted tiles. The collection encompasses various types such as mihrab tiles, frieze tiles and dado tiles. Some luster-painted tiles are dated from the 1270's and 1280's.