Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet)
Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century
Unglazed earthenware; moulded.
Height 26.5 cm, diameter of body 13.6 cm, diameter of rim 7.9 cm
Ayyubid / early Mamluk
The heavy, pinkish-grey earthenware flask belongs to the group of the so-called pilgrim bottles. The body of this type of pilgrim bottle is commonly composed of two flat circular sides, each with a broad, flanged edge and an unornamented strip of earthenware in the middle connecting the two side parts. This connecting strip is slightly concave so that the flask stands in a safe upright position on the edges of the side parts. Above, the bottle has a flared neck consisting of two sections separated by a ring in relief. The rim of the neck is damaged. For carrying and suspension, there are two handles fixed to the neck and to the shoulders. The bottle shows identical moulded decoration on both sides. At the centre there is an eight-petalled rosette surrounded by an arabesque scroll. The four double-framed leaf forms of the outer zone are set against a dense background pattern of tiny rhombs.
On similar bottles the centre of the sides often bears an emblem easily recognised as belonging to one of the Ayyubid or Mamluk sultans and amirs. These emblems were attributes of their dignity. A rosette might not appear to be a specific emblem but it does actually belong to them. It is actually one of the oldest devices used under the Ayyubids and early Mamluks. They usually chose six-petalled rosettes. Only one amir, Musa bin Yaghmur (AH 599–663 / AD 1203–65), seems to be known whose emblem was a white eight-petalled rosette as seen on this bottle. He was governor of Cairo under the Ayyubid al-Malik al-Salih and in AH 648 / AD 1250 under al-Malik al-Mu'azzam governor of Damascus.
Judging by the unglazed body, this bottle could have been used for storing liquids such as water. The porous material allowed evaporation to keep the liquid stored in it cool.
Earthenware flask. Characteristic are two flat circular sides and handles for carrying and suspension. Both sides are decorated with an eight-petalled rosette at the centre. This is the place where Ayyubid and Mamluk sultans and amirs usually marked their bottles with their own emblem.
An Ayyubid amir, Musa bin Yaghmur (599–663 / 1203–65), is known to have as an emblem the eight-petalled rosette without shield.
Gift of the Swedish Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf in 1935.
There are different clues. Musa bin Yaghmur to whom the bottle may be ascribed was governor of Damascus. Other pilgrim bottles of this type come from Syria and Jordan. This bottle is supposed to have been excavated, probably in Syria, since it was bought by the Swedish Crown Prince in Aleppo.
Florence, E. D., “Some Islamic Pilgrim Bottles“, Berytus, Archaeological Studies 2, 1935, pp.5–10.
Mayer, L. A., Saracenic Heraldry, Oxford, 1933.
Friederike Voigt "Pilgrim bottle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;se;Mus01;13;en
Prepared by: Friederike VoigtFriederike Voigt
Friederike Voigt has an MA in Iranian studies, history of art and social science and is currently working on her doctoral thesis on wall tiles in architectural decoration of Qajar Iran. Since 2004 she has been a project-related curator at the Museum for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm for Museum With No Frontiers. She studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, at the University of Tehran and archaeology at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She taught Persian language at several universities in Germany. She was an assistant curator at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Cultures at the Museum of Ethnology, State Museums of Berlin. Her main fields of interest are the material culture of Iran, especially of the Qajar period, and contemporary Iranian art.
Copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SE 14
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Al-Franj: the Crusaders in the Levant | Pilgrimage to the Holy Land Water | Water Usage: Drinking and Washing
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)