Bowl with inscription
Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia
Museum of Islamic Art
Hegira, last third of the 3rd century / AD 9th century
Height 7 cm, diameter 24 cm, diameter (at base) 9 cm, thickness 1 cm
Raqqada or Kairouan.
Round-based bowl with chamfered rim, coated with a green copper oxide glaze. In the centre of the bowl are four rows of kufic script written using a brown glaze (manganese oxide) with the word ‘al-Mulk’ (Sovereignty) written twice over. This expression occurs right through AH 3rd- / AD 9th-century Muslim pottery, from al-Andalus to India. The letters are drawn with split ascenders, a practice which became frequent in Ifriqiya from the second half of the AH 3rd / AD 9th century. The background colour of the lettering is yellow ochre based on antimony oxide or iron oxide and the script is surrounded by a frame of four brown rectangles.
Green, brown and yellow ochre are the three colours typically used in Aghlabid pottery. Interestingly, these three colours have been consistently employed in Tunisian pottery through the centuries and up to the present day.
Dish with a ring base and bevelled rim. The green, brown and yellow ochre colours used are the same as those typically found in Aghlabid ceramics, and they have remained an almost constant part of Tunisian ceramics through the centuries to the present day.
Raqqada, where the bowl was found, was the Aghlabid capital city, built in 263 / 876 by Prince Ibrahim II, which makes this date a terminus ante quem. Moreover, the bowl is characteristic in its shape, colour and decoration of that of the Aghlabid period just before the advent of the Fatimids in 296 / 909. It is therefore likely that the terminus post quem can be taken at the latter date.
Unfortunately, these excavations were not carried out methodically and scientifically and no excavation record was compiled, so a more accurate dating is not possible. It is probable that the same shapes, colours and techniques were carried over to the Fatimid era.
This bowl was found during the Raqqada site excavations in the 1960s. At first it was kept on site, but since 1986 it has been on display at the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada.
The discovery of this bowl on the Raqqada site, painted in the Aghlabid manner and of Ifriqiyan-style manufacture, would confirm that this was a local piece from the Raqqada potteries or from those at Kairouan, the nearest economic capital.
Daoulatli, A., Poteries et céramiques tunisiennes, 1979, pp.32–3.
Tunisie: du christianisme à l'islam (exhibition catalogue), Lattes, 2001, p.184.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.174–5.
Mourad Rammah "Bowl with inscription" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;tn;Mus01;45;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 72
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Abbasid Ceramics
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