The 8th Research Seminar on the History of
Middle Eastern Ceramics


Dates: February 11th ~ 14th, 2000.

Place: Okayama, Arita, Nagasaki, Fukuoka, and Dazaifu.


Feb. 11th

Feb. 12th

Feb. 13th

Feb. 14th


At the Okayama Orient Museum, Oliver WATSON, who leads the studies on lustre decoration, discussed issues related to the museum's collection of lustre ware. In Arita and Nagasaki, we viewed exhibitions of historic ceramics and exchanged views with some researchers. Critical information was obtained about Japanese and Chinese ceramics exported to Southeast Asia and Europe in the Edo period when they were also exported to Islamic areas. The sherds unearthed in Dejima were thought to be manufactured in Iran after the 16th century. Islamic earthenware with a blue-green glaze and thought to have been produced in the 9th to 10th centuries was excavated at the sites in Fukuoka and Dazaifu. As only a small number of these vessels has been found, it is likely that they in themselves were not traded, but served as containers for trade goods. According to WATSON, Islamic sherds with artificial frit bodies were present among the articles excavated in Dazaifu.


Summary of the Reports:


1) Islamic Pottery And the Tradition of Lustre Decoration


It is interesting that particular groups of potters monopolized the skills of lustre decoration for over 1000 years in the history of pottery. The history of lustre decoration has been critically affected by the immigration of these groups of potters. The earliest lustre decoration (773 A.D.) was seen on glassware excavated at Fustat, Egypt. Lustre decoration, thereafter, came to be used on ceramics and developed in 9th-century Iraq during the Abbasids. Ceramic versions of lustre decoration first appeared in the 9th century as imitations of metalware. However, different shapes and a white glaze were later introduced due to the influence of Chinese porcelain. After the potters migrated back to Egypt in the late 10th century, a transparent glaze began to be used over white frit bodies in the 12th century. New styles of lustre decoration emerged as the techniques of lustre decoration spread to Kashan (Iran) and Raqqa (Syria) in the second half of the 12th century, and to Spain in the 13th century. The practice of such techniques, however, ceased in Kashan by the mid-14th century and in Raqqa by 1400. Lustre decoration, though not very common, reappeared in Iran until the 17th century, while the Spanish Christian craftsmen perpetuated the techniques. During the Arts and Crafts Movement in the 19th century, De Morgan revived lustre decoration in England.


2) Islamic Ceramics Excavated in Japan



Early Islamic earthenware excavated in Japan was surveyed exhaustively. The excavated articles, most of which were unearthed at the sites of governmental offices and mansions, were all large green-blue-glazed jars crafted in the late 9th century or early 10th century. However, further archaeological research is required to elucidate whether the jar itself was traded or it was merely a container for the trade goods, and whether the jar was brought into Japan by Muslim merchants or by Chinese merchants.


3) Emergence and Evolvement of the Islamic Tin-glazed Pottery


Prior to the 9th century, Islamic ceramics were made of an earthenware body, which was baked at a temperature below 1000゚C. Later, ceramics made in imitation of Chinese white porcelain were produced in Basra (Iraq) by applying white tin glazes over a yellowish earthen body. Green and cobalt blue dots were sometimes painted on these. WATSON refers to this painting technique as in-glaze painting because wet paint is absorbed into the dry surface of the glaze. The technique was propagated east to Istakhr, Nishapur in Iran, and then to Samarqand. Green, yellow, and black paints were used in these areas. In-glaze painting also spread westward. In Syria, Egypt, and the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, green and brown lines were drawn on white glazed earthen bodies. The technique was introduced into Spain in the 10th century. The same earthen body was also used for lustre-painted ware which is known as Hispano-Moresque ware. The tin-glazing technique, which originated in Basra in the 9th century, has been assimilated in Spain and then introduced to Italy, France, Holland, England, and Norway. It has thus evolved over the past thousand years as a fundamental technique in European pottery.