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Fernand Braudel

Graffito-splashed small dish

12th-13th century
The dish has a simple rounded rim, oblique straight walls with a weak low carination on the exterior; it has a square-profiled disc base with concave inner face. The object is covered with a pale slip, with a graffito decoration and green splashes on the interior, both realized before the application of the glaze. The glaze is transparent, colourless-yellowish; it is probably a lead glaze, shiny and well preserved. On the inside bottom are visible marks of the three-pronged clay stilts that separated vessels in the kiln. The graffito decoration on the inner walls is constituted by a pseudo-epigraphic band, on a scaled background, where it is possible to recognize the cluster lam-alif alternating with a double lam. On the inside bottom is a simple graffito spiral scribble emphasized by two large splashed dots. There is no reciprocity between the graffito decoration and the splashes and the latter partly blurs the reading of the graffito ornamentation. The direction of the splashes and the densification of colour on the edge suggest that the object has been dried upside down. The dish is made of a fairly well purified clay, light brown / red brick in colour, which is found in most of the glazed pottery of Ghazni and which archaeometrical analysis suggests to be of local origin. The graffito-splashed ware is the most represented group in the glazed class of pottery assemblage from Ghazni. The production is characterized by graffito decorations with rather simple motifs – geometric, stylized vegetal or pseudo-epigraphic, more rarely zoomorphic – accompanied by green splashes (rarely reddish brown-yellow) or polychrome painted dots. The splashes tend to be independent of the graffitied lines, while the dots typically follow and emphasize the graffito decoration. As for the shapes, almost exclusively open forms – plates and cups especially – have been found. Graffito-splashed wares are widely spread from Egypt to Central Asia and are mainly associated to a local production and circulation. Artefacts similar to that of Ghazni can be found almost everywhere in Iran and Central Asia, as in Nishapur, Sirjan, Gurgan, Samarkand-Afrasyiab, and Jam. Yet, it is with the production of Bamiyan, even more than with the ‘gravé et jaspé’ group of Lashkari Bazar, that this dish shows the closest similarities. According to Gardin, the pottery of Bamiyan can be dated to a few decades before 1221, a dating that Scerrato moves back to the second half of the 12th century, that is, to the emergence of the Ghurids. These attributions are supported by the archaeological discovery of the dish presented here. It comes, in fact, from the excavation of a private residence in Ghazni, called the House of the lustrewares, which is ascribed to a period dating from the late 12th to the early 13th century. The object was found in a closet inside a big earthenware jar together with other whole ceramics, a circumstance suggesting that such objects were intentionally concealed, probably during the Mongol invasion. However, since this type of ware was found in almost every archaeological layer of Mas‘ud III’s palace, an even earlier dating for the beginning of this production (early 12th century) cannot be excluded.

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