8th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster abstract – Morero et al.

Reconstruction of the carving and polishing techniques of Fatimid rock crystal ewers (10-12th cent. AD.)

E. Morero, J. Johns, H. Procopiou, R. Vargiolu & H. Zahouani

Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 2LG, UK

The art of Fatimid Egypt in the 10th–12th centuries C.E. is well known for luxury arts, and particularly for the production of rock crystal vessels. The techniques used in carving this hard stone were re-considered following the appearance in 2008 of a new ewer – the Francis Mills ewer – which at first sight seemed to belong to a famous group of rock crystal ewers carved in Fatimid Egypt. The best criteria for determining whether or not the ewer is a member of this group, were the identification and comparison of the carving techniques used in the Fatimid period.

To this end, a corpus of 15 artefacts was analysed. The manufacturing traces (mainly from the polishing and carving) were recorded and observed. Then, the reconstitution of these processes required a method based on a multidisciplinary approach, which associates data obtained by tribological analyses, archaeology and written sources, with information from ethnoarcheology (traditional workshops). In
parallel, experimental reconstructions of the ancient techniques were realised, partly with the collaboration of a gem cutter. We were able to identify the techniques and the tool kit used by Fatimid craftsmen, while the attribution of the ewer to the Fatimid group was established.

Contadini A., Fatimid art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1998.

Hansford S. H., Chinese Carved Jades, London, 1950.

Morero E. Procopiou H., Vargiolu R., Johns J., Zahouani H., “Carving and polishing techniques of Fatimid rock crystal ewers (10-12th cent. AD.)”, Wear 301 (2013), p. 150-156.


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