Defining new technological traditions of Late Islamic Arabia: a view on Bahlā Ware from al-Ain (UAE) and the lead-barium glaze production

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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences


© 2019, The Author(s). In this paper, the monochrome glazed Bahlā Ware from al-Ain dated between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries (Late Islamic Arabian Period) has been analysed aiming to reconstruct the production technology of the ceramic fabrics and glazes. The results of the petrographic and chemical analyses suggest a unique technological tradition embedded in the culture of Late Islamic Arabia. This tradition incorporates the production of a lead-barium glaze coated over a single type of ceramic fabric that spans for nearly three centuries. Since this is the first evidence for the production of a lead-barium glaze in the Islamic World, the origins of this technology remain uncertain, but the results of the ceramic petrography identify the Omani Peninsula as the most likely source for the ceramic fabric. During the economic peak of al-Ain in the eighteenth century, this tradition shows signs of technological diversity visible in the appearance of new fabrics and glazes. Considering the wide distribution of Bahlā Ware in the Western Indian Ocean, understanding of the production technology and provenance of al-Ain’s ceramics has important implications for archaeological interpretation.

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