Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia
Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira, second half of the 4th–first half of the 5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries
Engraved and decorated glass.
Height 11 cm, diameter 4 cm to 6 cm, thickness of glass at rim 0.1 to 0.15 cm
Sabra al-Mansuriyya or Kairouan.
A goblet in the shape of a truncated cone. The upper part is undecorated and spreads out slightly into a chalice shape. The base is concave (for stability) and retains the navel-like mark where the glass-blower's pipe broke away.
The glass is transparent, slightly smoky and has very few air-bubbles. It has an iridescent and pearly appearance. The lower part is decorated with a grid of incised lines forming two rows of seven diamond shapes and two rows of seven triangles. Topped by a double circumferential band, the upper rows are decorated with oblique tapering grooves whereas the lower rows have opposing lobes. This grid is decorated at each intersection with an ellipsoidal groove shaped like a segment of a circle. Around the base are more notches, linked to the wall of the goblet with quarter-circle shapes. This goblet is similar to some found at Fustat, Raqqa and Damascus, and to others discovered in the cargo of the wreck discovered off the Turkish coast during the Serce Limani seabed excavations. The goblet's straight profile reminds us of those drinking vessels held by the caliphs and high dignitaries shown on the Fatimid wood carvings in Cairo.
This goblet in the shape of a truncated cone has a concave base, and its slightly tinted transparent glass contains some air bubbles. The goblet is comparable to similar objects found during submarine excavations along the Turkish coast.
Although this object is similar to articles found at Raqqa dating from the 3rd / 10th century, it was, however, discovered at the Sabra al-Mansuriyya site. This capital city of the Fatimids was founded in the mid-4th / 9th century. As for the likeness of the goblet to the above-mentioned Serce Limani wreck cargo, we know that the ship sank in the second quarter of the 5th / 11th century. Sabra was completely abandoned after the Hilalian invasions in 449 / 1057. We can therefore date this goblet with assurance between the second-half of the 4th / 10th and the beginning of the 5th / 11th centuries.
After its discovery in 1992 this piece was kept at the Bardo Museum. It was then acquired by the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada, on its inauguration. It is currently on display there.
This goblet was discovered by chance in 1992 at the Sabra al-Mansuriyya site. Brick pickers broke open a large jar with a pick-axe and found contents of priceless value: carafes, goblets, flasks and cups. The shape and decoration of other similar objects found in the Sabra excavations suggest that this object was either produced at the Sabra glass-works, which were highly reputed at that time, or at those of Kairouan, the nearest economic capital.
Marçais, G. et Poinssot, L., Objets kairouanais, XI, fasc. 2, Tunis, 1952, pp.388–9, cat. no. 8.
Mourad Rammah "Goblet" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tn;Mus01;41;en
Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah
Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: TN 64
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Water | Water Usage: Drinking and Washing
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