The sphero-conical vessel style of objects form a
distinct group, homogeneously brought together
by their shape and material. Usually, these
objects are the same size. The form is
characterized by the “sphero-conical” shape of
the body, the outline varies, but almost all have
a narrow neck usually with a groove beneath the
lip that would be used to tie a stopper down, and
the opening is usually very small. The colour,
texture and finish will vary. This sphero-conical
vessel is made of dark earthenware, the surface
is decorated with incised tear drops patterns.
Most often, these objects are dark, fine grained
and compact. Firing appears to be high as to
render the object impenetrable. The thickness of
the walls gives the object weight and strength,
and no doubt helps to improve water tightness.
Objects such as this sphero-conical vessel have
sparked debates in regards to their nature. Many
of these objects appear to have been thrown and
others have a mould-formed upper section.
Rumoured uses of these objects include: hand
grenades or incendiary bombs, a perfume flask,
a fire-blower, a mercury bottle, a beer flask, a
plumb bob, or a rose water sprinkler. One
recently found at Samarra was believed to have
an inscription stating that it was meant to
contain a vintage wine.
It is clear however that these objects can serve a
multitude of purposes and any of these
proposals can be correct. However, one may
ponder why such a very particular and laborious
construction would be necessary to simply
provide the required weight for a plumb bob?
Whatever the case may be, Savage Smith (1997)
explains: Sphero-conical vessels appear to be
confined to the early and medieval Islamic
periods-whatever their function, in later periods
either different vessels were found appropriate,
or the uses they served became extinct.