5.0 Discussion

5.1 Typology versus fabric

The results of the petrographic study of the Aleppo wares largely support the results of earlier studies, in that it is very difficult to link typology to provenance in Syria. The Aleppo group itself mostly comprises a distinctive style, but includes examples stylistically indistinguishable from pottery made at other centres. The remaining wares also do not create definitive associations between petrofabric and style groups. The Aleppo corpus provides one of only two samples of Syrian Group Two lustre-wares that have been made available for analysis, and this one (Figure 4) is of a different petrofabric group from the other one (Figure 3). This inability to relate stylistic groups to petrofabric groups stands at stark contrast from all other regions of the Islamic world from the 7th to the 17th century, and even from Syria after AD 1250, when Damascus appears to be the sole production centre.

5.2 Provenance

'Aleppo 1' Petrofabric - Aleppo

Included in the finds from the Citadel of Aleppo are four sherds which are almost certainly wasters, having been broken in the kiln, and which have fragments of other vessels adhering to them. Together with nine further samples, this group defines the production of Aleppo. The cryptocrystalline quartz mineralogy of the body is compatible with the geology of the region whether the source is chert from the limestones of the region or cryptocrystalline infillings of cavities in the basalts which outcrop upstream along the Kowayk.

'Aleppo 2' Petrofabric - Damascus(?)

The 4 samples from Aleppo join a further 60 samples from other sites of this petrofabric. The only unequivocal evidence for the production of stonepaste-bodied wares in the 14th century is for Damascus (Mason 1997), and petrographic analysis of 14th-century pottery from Syria has revealed a single petrofabric. The presence of evidence for a single centre combined with the existence of a single petrofabric is not considered a coincidence, but a direct correlation. Damascus would seem to have also been one of the predominant centres of Ayyubid Underglaze-painted wares including the overwhelming majority of sampled Syrian Polychrome wares. As such Damascus would appear to be the most significant Syrian production centre. However, this appraisal may be biased by the large number of samples from Fustat, Ani, Jerusalem, Dhiban, and north-west Europe, which may reflect a trade area dominated by Damascus. For instance, the Aleppo Petrofabric ('Aleppo 1') is dominant in Aleppo. After about 1250 Damascus seems to be the sole Syrian stonepaste pottery production centre.

'Aleppo 3' Petrofabric - Raqqa-2 (eastern Syria)

A single sample from Aleppo joins 18 further samples. Although there are two petrofabrics with the Raqqa name, this one, formerly known as the 'Raqqa-style' Petrofabric (Mason 1994), is now the only one positively associated with the site. Pottery from recent excavations at Raqqa, including wasters, are included in the samples. In the art-historical literature Raqqa had the foremost reputation for production of Ayyubid-period Syrian stonepaste wares, with most types having had at some time the classification of 'Raqqa-ware'. The site is less important than may have been thought at one time, but remains significant. At Aleppo the poor preservation of Syrian Group Seven wares, the widely known late 'Raqqa' type of lustre-ware, has discouraged sampling.

'Aleppo 4' Petrofabric - 'Ma'arrat' (western Syria?)

The two samples from Aleppo join a further 25 samples. This petrofabric is defined by analysis of 22 of a group of wasters which are said to have come from Tell Minis, near Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, and were donated to the Ashmolean Museum in 1980 by Dr H. Bartels. This is a dealer's attribution, and hence is suspect. As the group has subsequently been shown to differ from the 'Tell Minis' Petrofabric as first defined (see below), it was decided to name the petrofabric after the nearby large town. The inclusion of two samples within this group, including an important lustre-ware type, makes it particularly irksome that we still do not really know where the site of production is.

Raqqa-1 Petrofabric (eastern Syria?)

Comprises 4 samples. This petrofabric was first defined by analysis of a group of vessels in the Royal Ontario Museum, including wasters, said to be from Raqqa. Because this material was bought from a dealer, the attribution had always been suspect (Mason 1994). Analysis of wasters from Raqqa obtained through reliable means has revealed a completely different petrofabric. It remains to be seen whether the Raqqa-1 Petrofabric pieces are anomalies from Raqqa, which is unlikely given the range of material now sampled from excavations at the site, or are from a completely different site, the location of which was obscured by or unknown to the dealer.

'Tell Minis' Petrofabric (western Syria)

Comprises ten samples. Includes Syrian Group One or 'Tell Minis' style Lustre-painted wares and three of four sampled Polychrome-relief or 'Laqabi' wares. The traditional attribution of the 'Tell Minis' style to western Syria has been based on numerous finds of saleable vessels (in both the ancient and the modern pottery markets) in the region, including a cache of thirteen vessels found at Tell Minis itself, and also its presence at sites such as Hama (Mason 1997). None of this style was available from Aleppo for this paper, but the latest season of excavations, completed two weeks before this paper was submitted, produced a significant number of this group.


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Last updated: Tue Oct 24 2000