National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 218–27 / AD 833–42
Height 8.2 cm, diameter 8.5 cm
Probably the Raqqa region, Syria.
Found in Palace B, a translucent, honey-coloured glass tumbler that is entirely decorated with floral and vegetal motifs organised in multiple horizontal bands along the edges and alternating vertical fields along the body. The decoration is incised into the glass, incorporating styles that are occasionally found on carved wood or metal from the period, but not usually on glass.
Technically speaking the tumbler is of great importance since the thin, engraved glass was worked with a sharp tool, and although the technique was known in the Roman period, it was usually used in tandem with other techniques. In the Islamic period, however, it was used as a stand-alone technique, and the incisions were cut deeper into the glass.
Raqqa, a region that lies between the Euphrates and Balikh rivers, flourished during the Abbasid period. A group of Abbasid palaces, parts of which were excavated during the 1950s and labelled with the letters A, B, C and D, are found there.
Although the production and ornamentation of glass in Syria has an ancient heritage, this glass tumbler reveals an example of delicate and precise decoration by incision, a technique which flourished under early Islamic rule.
Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah (r. AH 218–27 / AD 833–42)
The tumbler is believed to be contemporary to Palace B, which has been dated to the period of Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah (r. 218–27 / 833–41).
The tumbler was found during archaeological excavations undertaken by a delegation from the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities during the 1950s under the direction of Nasib Salibi.
The tumbler was found during an archaeological excavation at Raqqa. There is no way of establishing whether it was made locally or imported, as similar glass production flourished in both Baghdad and Damascus.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.253.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., “Incised Islamic Glass,” Archaeology 24:3, 1971, pp.202–
Cluzan, S. et al (eds), Syrie: Mémoire et Civilisation, Paris, 1994, p.420; cat. no.
Daiber, V., and Becker, A., Raqqa III, Mainz, 2004.
Kohlmeyer, K. (ed), Land des Baal, Mainz, 1982, pp.276–7; plate 251.
Mona al-Moadin "Glass tumbler" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;8;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 14
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Al-Raqqa: Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s Capital in Syria
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