Sphero-conical greyish green stoneware vessel
with a narrow neck with small everted rolled rim,
pointed on its lower part.
The upper part carries a row of stamped and
carved medallions featuring what seems to be a
horse carrying a bird. Traces of yet another band
of stamped floral designs appear on the widest
part of the body.
Various interpretations have been offered
regarding the actual function of such vessels,
from grenades, fire-blowers (aeolipiles), to
containers of precious liquids or plumb bobs.
Indeed recently the Conservation Department of
the Institute of Archaeology, University of
London, while analysing one sphero-conical
vessel, found traces of mercury, thus indicating
that some of these objects could have been used
to contain mercury. Other authors, relying on
epigraphic evidence, have suggested that some
of them would have stored beer. What seems
logic is that sphero-conical vessels, depending
on the shape and material, would have then
served different purposes. Not only were they
eclectic in function, they also have been found in
sites throughout the Middle East up to Central
Asia, datable from the 9th century up to the
Mongol invasion, attesting to their incredible
success as portable carriers of precious
For comparable examples see:
G. Fehervari, Ceramic of the Islamic World in the
Tarek Rajab Museum, 2000: pp 207-231.
Richard Ettinghausen, 'The Use of sphero-
Conical Vessels in the Muslim East', Journal of
Near Eastern Studies, XXIV, 1965: 218-229.
Sphero-conical vessel, stoneware with carved
decoration showing series of walking animals
round medallions on the shoulder.
Iran or Central Asia, 9th – 12th century.
Prof. Geza Fehervari
Prof. Geoffrey King