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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Bronze Mortar and Pestle
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Bronze Mortar and Pestle - LO.1171
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 800 AD to 1100 AD
Dimensions: 1.5" (3.8cm) high x 2" (5.1cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Style: Islamic
Medium: Quarternary Bronze

Additional Information: A--Pestle H: 3.5 AS
Location: Great Britain
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Small cylindrical mortar with splayed foot, low collar and reinforced rim, plain surface and highly encrusted internal sides.

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. The mortar here illustrated might have been used for medical purposes, given the small size.

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.1171)


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