Islamic Ceramic Clay Stand

    Syrian or Egyptian


    date: c. 7th-9th Century AD

    gift of: Professor Gary Hanson

    provenance: unknown

    description: Our terracotta stand presents a mystery in terms of function and origin. The decorations were incised into the terracotta, probably with a stylus, and at first glance appear to mimic ancient cuneiform writing. On closer examination they resemble flowers, whose representation was permitted in Islam, though it forbade the representation of humans or animals on objects of religious significance. The holes at the corners of the top surface may have held wooden or metal rods that may have held a book.

    If this item is correctly dated, it was made on the cusp of the rise of Islam when its art was slowly gaining influence in the Near East. Until other comparable pieces are found it is difficult to gauge the function of the object and the extent of Islamic influence on its decoration.