عنوان مقاله [English]
A distinctive characteristic of the Ilkhanid pottery is the high diversity of ceramic vessels produced in various styles and techniques. While the pottery with stamped decorations is among the popular types in the period, it has received less scholarly attention than other contemporary types. Importance of this historical data led us to examine the related material from Zolfabad in Farahan. The merits of studying the decorations of this type lie in the links between the Islamic and pre-Islamic Iran and the appearance of symbols inspired by Islamic thought on ceramics as well as the integration of the pre-Muslim and Mongolian cultures in its decorations. The study focuses on the stamped pottery excavated at Zolfabad to redeem the lack of sufficient information. As a descriptive and analytical research, it builds on both excavations and library studies to answer questions like: What are the main reasons behind the attribution of the Zolfabad stamped assemblages to the Ilkhanid period and to the local pottery workshops? And, to what extend do their decorations show influences from other cultures? Based on the discovery of Ilkhanid coinage, pottery with black underdrawing (Qalam Meshki), and Sultanabad ware, the pottery type in question dates to the Ilkhanid period. And, pesence of ceramic tripods, plugs (stoppers), wasters, and deformed fragments attest to their local production. Besides Iranian archetypal patterns, a series of motifs inspired by the Chinese-Mongolian culture, say tails of lions resembling dragon, are found on the contemporary material.
Keywords: Farahan, Zolfabad, Islamic Pottery, Stamped Patterns, Ilkhanid.
The pottery of the 12th and 13th centuries AD display an unprecedented diversity in production techniques, decorations and prosperity (Tohidi 2003, 171), with many earlier patterns and techniques culminating in this period (Dimand 1977, 171). In fact, motifs and ornaments are a major aspect of the contemporary pottery art, and as various themes embellish exterior or interior surfaces in different techniques. A technique that came to the fore in the early centuries and particularly in the medieval Islamic period and combined Iranian and Islamic elements on the unglazed forms was the stamped pottery. Such vessels tend to have an exterior covered fully or in part with various floral and animal motifs and human figures as well as inscriptions. Excavations in 2009 and 2010 at Zolfabad of Farahan in the central Iranian plateau have produced in residential spaces stamped fragments that merit analysis because of their decorations. Here we set to study these fragments to partially redeem the existing lacuna.
Research Questions and Assumptions: This research will attempt to answer these questions: What are the main reasons behind the attribution of the stamped pottery of Zolfabad to the Ilkhanid period and to the local pottery workshops? And, to what extend do their decorations reflect impacts of other cultures?
Research Method: The method adopted a descriptive and analytical approach. Related data were gathered through library research from previous publications and were used as comparanda in analyzing the stamped pottery fragments excavated from Zolfabad.
Zolfabad Stamped Pottery
With an area of over 100 hectares, Zolfabad is a major Islamic site in the Farahan plain of Arak. The site is locally called the ruins or the subterranean city of Zolfabad (Nemati 2009).
The diversified decorations on the stamped pottery of Zolfabad attest to the continuation of the pre-Islamic motifs in the Islamic period and the integration of Iranian and Mongolian culture in the Ilkhanid period. Patterns include a variety of human figures, floral, animal and geometric motifs and inscriptions often used in combination or occasionally singly. Animal motifs were either applied singly or together with floral and geometric motifs and human figures on the vessels (Kiani 1998, 76). A description of the motifs recorded on the stamped pottery from Zolfabad is followed.
Lion: As one of the widely used motifs on the Islamic pottery, it carries the same meaning that it conveyed in the pre-Islamic times (Dadvar 2014, 10).
Fish: It is represented by two swirling fish. At Zolfabad it is rendered in the same manner that is seen on the Saljuq and Ilkhanid glazed pieces.
Sun Face: The sun assumes a paramount place in Iranian mythology. An earliest Iranian religion to attach special significance to the sun is the Mithraism. Mithra is an ancient Indo-Iranian deity, who is highly regarded in Avesta, and to whom is dedicated the tenth Yasht (Bahar 1996, 80). The motif occurs on the Ilkhanid pottery, including a fragment from Zulfabad, in the form of a human face.
Inscriptions: Inscriptions are among fashionable decorative elements on the stamped pottery of Zolfabad. The incomplete nature of the fragments render their inscribed contents unreadable, but drawing on the instances on the glazed and unglazed ceramics from the Saljuq and Ilkhanid sites, they probably include specimens. Coming from glazed and non-glazed pottery in the Seljuk and Ilkhanid period sites, they appear to include aphorisms, a repetition of a certain word, or a single letter. A few motifs classifiable as pseudo-inscriptions, are in Persian and Arabic, in Kufic and Naskh scripts.
Birds: Throughout the Islamic period, birds occur on pottery as painted or stamped patterns, implying various concepts. The tradition continued at Zolfabad on the stamped pottery in the underglaze technique.
Floral Motifs: In Iran, the earliest floral motifs are found on pottery, seals and stones. The Iranian world is laden with plant imagery (Hall, 2001: 286).
Khatai: They abound on the stamped pottery of Zolfabad, usually interspersed with geometric motifs. They tend to be four-, six- or eight-petalled flowers, and cypress (Figs. 24-29).
Arabesque: Other recurring ornaments on the stamped pottery of Zolfabad include isolated and repetitive tendrils framed by filler circles.
Geometric Motifs: Geometric motifs are among the most common and earliest patterns used on pottery. They were widely used in all pottery centers since the prehistory.
Moon: Symbols and geometrical marks on pottery sometimes denote natural phenomena. Of these, scattered rings and concentric circles with a corona around them to represent rain and fertility, are interpreted as symbols of the moon (Samadi 1997, 23). On the stamped pottery of Zolfabad, they occur as the symbols of moon both singly and associated with the sun.
Our findings suggest stamping as a technique used to ornament unglazed pottery at Zolfabad. The pottery type shows a variety of human, floral, geometric and animal motifs and inscriptions. Such pieces are deemed local products based on the excavated evidence such as clay molds, plugs (stoppers), tripods, deformed pieces and wasters. Also, discovery of Ilkhanid coins from the residential area of the site as well as ceramics like pottery with black underdrawing (Qalam Meshki), lusterware and Sultanabad ware argue indisputably for an Ilkhanid date for the stamped pieces. Remarkable about the stamped decorations is the lavish use of pre-Islamic symbols that prevailed particularly in Saljuq and Ilkhanid Iran. Though in the Islamic period many of pre-Islamic symbols assumed new concepts based on the Islamic thought, those recorded on the Zolzabad material show no indications of the domination of Islamic culture save a few arabesque and khatai (floral) designs. The same is true of the Chinese-Mongolian culture. While following the Mongolian conquest Chinese symbols began to occur on a large scale on Iranian ceramics, especially glazed pottery, they appear to have found far less favor in the stamped pottery of Zolfabad than Iranian symbols. In this period, some motifs of the eastern Mongols, like dragons that symbolized the emperor and human figures, emerged in Iranian art.