Glazed hexagonal moulded tile
The small glazed moulded tile has the shape of an elongated hexagon. The top surface and side edges are coated with white slip and a transparent yellow glaze; both coatings have almost totally disappeared on the portions of the decoration in relief. The tile has been formed through the use of a mould and features an unframed vegetal motif in low relief: a palmette between two wide-spreading bilobated leaves. The tiles found in Ghazni are made of a rather well purified clay fabric, which is identical to that used to manufacture the glazed pottery. It is therefore quite likely that, as for the earthenware glazed ceramics, the tiles were locally produced (see No. 14). All the tiles are glazed with a transparent monochrome glaze, except for the turquoise ones, in which the glaze seems slightly opaque. There are plain tiles and relief moulded tiles (except for only one example, which has a ‘negative’ moulded decoration), with zoomorphic, vegetal, and more rarely epigraphic decorations. Among the decorative motifs, the prevailing ones are a gazelle with a vegetal-ended tail, almost always on square tiles, and a simple flower, formed by a triangle from which six closed buds spread, found exclusively on hexagonal tiles. The size is usually quite small (generally no more than 10 x 10 cm, about 1 cm thick). The prevailing shape is quadrangle, but there are also polygonal and star-shaped tiles. Most of the tiles have been found in the palace of Mas‘ud III in Ghazni, some also in the House of the lustrewares, but none has been found in situ. Their general use in architectural decoration, in keeping with Mesopotamian and Iranian traditions, has been widely established: these tiles, used in place of the more common stucco inserts, were probably placed into a wider panelling, made of cut bricks and, according to Scerrato, used in the inner walls of the monuments. Grube did not exclude their use as floor decorations and also suggested that the motifs were derived from those of textiles. The importance of the tiles from Ghazni lies in their uniqueness and originality and they can be considered among the first examples discovered so far. In fact, with the exception of the few specimens from the fortress of Alamut (central-northern Iran, 11th-13th century) nothing closely comparable to them has come to light in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Nevertheless, the analysis of individual features shows that this production fully participates in the Iranian cultural sphere: in other words, it is essentially a local re-elaboration of a much broader cultural and artistic heritage. As for the dating, Scerrato ascribed the tiles of Ghazni to a post-Ghaznavid period (second half of the 12th-early 13th century). However, their retrieval in almost every layer of the excavation of the palace in Ghazni – even in the foundations of the towers of the bailey, which certainly date to the Ghaznavid era – also allow to consider them as dating to the late phase of the Ghaznavid sultanate. The terminus ante quem of 1221 is instead quite safely established, since this is the date when the House of the lustrewares was probably abandoned.