Made on Order for the Amir: What was the function of Mamluk “Barracks Wares”?
- Bethany J. Walker (University of Bonn)
- 20 November 2018
- Van Steenis
2333 CC Leiden
- Main hall
Among the most readily recognizable pottery of the Mamluk period is a family of sgraffito and slip-painted bowls, chalices, and assorted vessels imitating inlaid brass forms and frequently bearing Arabic inscriptions. Usually of monumental scale, they have come to be known as Egyptian “Barracks Ware”, because of their militarized decorative program and recovery in large numbers from excavated garrisons in Egypt. Large carinated bowls of glazed relief ware seem to serve the same function in Syrian castles and urban sites, though they have not been as yet a focus of archaeological or art historical research. The relationship between the two wares, and their function in the daily lives of the Mamluk ruling elite, remain unknown.
This paper is a comparative study of the Egyptian and Syrian products using archaeological and textual-historical methods. It problematizes the regionalism of Mamluk ceramic production and consumption, suggesting reasons for the centralized production and rigidly regional distribution of these particular wares. Evidence for local imitation of the Egyptian sgraffito “Barracks Ware” in Transjordan and Palestine is presented, as well as a stratigraphic and site-wide distributional analysis of pottery from Tall Hisban, a small, rural Mamluk garrison site in central Jordan. Read against the backdrop of ceramic distributions across Bilād al-Shām, the wares can be associated with different kinds of garrisons, administrative centers, amiral residences and estates, and “civilian” houses. The study also scrutinizes the potential meaning in the decorative program of both wares, looking beyond the political symbolism of the blazons to the administrative, and historically relevant, content of the Arabic inscriptions.
This lecture is the freely accesible key-note of the symposium Material Entanglements in the Islamic World. The lecture is followed by drinks.