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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Bronze Mortar and Pestle
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Bronze Mortar and Pestle - LO.1177
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 10th th Century AD to 11th th Century AD
Dimensions: 2" (5.1cm) high x 2.5" (6.4cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Quarternary Bronze

Additional Information: A--Pestle H: 5 AS
Location: Great Britain
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Small cylindrical mortar with splayed foot and rim, incised horizontal lines on the body. The pestle with raised collar in the centre and spherical knob finial.

Bronze mortars were unknown to the cultures of the Mediterranean area and the Middle East in pre-Islamic times and were probably developed in Persia in the 10th century as copies of cruder stone prototypes. Mortars were used for pounding small amounts of food, such as spices or herbs in cookery, and were also an important item of alchemical and pharmaceutical equipment.

During the Seljuk period, they were often made of quaternary alloy consisting of copper and lead with some tin and zinc, known in medieval Persia as shabah mufragh. The high content of lead (acting as a flux) allowed an easier casting but gave the objects a softness whose effects are to be seen in the many surviving examples which are misshapen though heavy pestle work. Indeed they must have been a rather sinister source of lead poisoning. For a similar mortar see: Hayward Gallery, The Arts of Islam, 1976: pl.181, p.171. LO.1177. Mortar and pestle, cast bronze with engraved decoration. Cylindrical body resting on a flat base which forms a ring; everted flat rim; decorated with a pair of engraved concentric lines which run around the central part of the body. A matching pestle is attached. Iran or Central Asia, 10th – 11th century. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. geoffrey King - (LO.1177)


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