Islamic Glass in the Making

Chronological and Geographical Dimensions

Nadine Schibille

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New insights into the history of Islamic glassmaking

The ancient glass industry changed dramatically towards the end of the first millennium. The Roman glassmaking tradition of mineral soda glass was increasingly supplanted by the use of plant ash as the main fluxing agent at the turn of the ninth century CE. Defining primary production groups of plant ash glass has been a challenge due to the high variability of raw materials and the smaller scale of production. Islamic Glass in the Making advocates a large-scale archaeometric approach to the history of Islamic glassmaking to trace the developments in the production, trade and consumption of vitreous materials between the eighth and twelfth centuries and to separate the norm from the exception. It proposes compositional discriminants to distinguish regional production groups, and provides insights into the organisation of the glass industry and commerce during the early Islamic period. The interdisciplinary approach leads to a holistic understanding of the development of Islamic glass; assemblages from the early Islamic period in Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Egypt, Greater Syria and Iberia are evaluated, and placed in the larger geopolitical context. In doing so, this book fills a gap in the present literature and advances a large-scale approach to the history of Islamic glass.

Ebook available in Open Access.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

Chapter 1

Islamic glassmaking in Egypt contingent on local administration

• Primary glass workshops in Egypt – the archaeological evidence

• Roman and late antique glass groups of Egyptian origin

Roman antimony-decoloured glass
High iron, manganese and titanium (HIMT) glass
HIMT2 & Foy 3.2 (série 3.2)
Glass group Foy 2.1 (série 2.1)
Magby – a high Mg Byzantine glass type
Compositions and working properties over time

• The beginnings of Islamic glass production

Natron type Egypt 1A-C & Egypt 2
Natron type Egypt 1Ax – glass mosaics from the Great Mosque in Damascus

• The earliest plant ash glasses from Egypt

Plant ash glasses E1 – E4
Recycling and chronological evolution
Tin-oxide opacified glass weights

• Trace element discriminants of Egyptian glass

• Egyptian glass and its market

Chapter 2

Islamic glassmaking in Greater Syria (Bilâd al-Shâm): distribution patterns

• Glassmaking and glass-working in the Bilâd al-Shâm –

the archaeological evidence

• Roman and late antique glass groups of Levantine origin

Roman manganese-decoloured and naturally coloured glass
The glass from fourth-century Jalame
Late antique Apollonia glass – Levantine I

• The beginnings of Islamic glass production

Early Islamic natron glass from Bet Eli‘ezer – Levantine II
The early Islamic mosaic tradition in Greater Syria
An interlude – the gold in gold leaf tesserae
Colours and opacifiers of the mosaic tesserae

• The last hurrah of natron-type glass in the Levant

• The earliest plant ash glasses from the Bilâd al-Shâm

Raqqa group 1 & Raqqa group 4
Glass from the primary production site of Tyre
Glass from the Serçe Limani shipwreck and the secondary workshop at Banias

• Ruptures and shifts in the production of glass in the Levant

• Distribution patterns and the glass market

Chapter 3

Glass production in Mesopotamia: preservation of plant ash recipes

• Sasanian glassmaking tradition - Veh Ardašīr et al.

• The transition to Islamic glassmaking in Mesopotamia

Mesopotamian group Raqqa 4
Two early Islamic glass groups from Mesopotamia: Samarra 1 and Samarra 2
Colourless glass from Nishapur
Millefiori tiles from Samarra and the ‘missing link’
Message in a bottle
The port city of Siraf – a trading hub

• Glass from Iran and Central Asia – multiple origins of the glass

at Nishapur and Merv

• Mesopotamian versus Central Asian glass productions

Chapter 4

“From Polis to Madina” and the flux of glass in Spain

• Late Roman and Visigothic glass from Hispania

The glass from Recópolis – exception to the rule or genuine trend?

• The first local production of glass in Islamic al-Andalus

The ‘invention’ of glassmaking – the case of Šaqunda
The glass workshop in Pechina (Almería)
The glass from Madīnat al-Zahrā’ – the Brilliant City
Domestic assemblages in Córdoba and the advent of Iberian plant ash glass

• Mosaics from Madīnat al-Zahrā’ and the Great Mosque of Córdoba

• The glass supply in eighth- to tenth-century al-Andalus

• Glass and the processes of Islamisation

• Western expansion: Sicily and the Maghreb

Byzantine, Islamic and Swabian Sicily
Islamic glass in the Maghreb
Emancipation of western Islamic glassmaking

Chapter 5

In conclusion – geographical and chronological dimensions


Format: Monograph - hardback

Size: 234 × 156 × 18 mm

270 pages

Illustrated in colour

ISBN: 9789462703193

Publication: March 07, 2022

Series: Studies in Archaeological Sciences 7

Languages: English

Stock item number: 147099

Nadine Schibille is a senior researcher in art history and archaeometry in the Institut de recherche sur les archéomatériaux (IRAMAT-CEB) at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Cette recherche, par son approche à grande échelle, tant numérique que géographique et chronologique, était une gageure renforcée par la grande variabilité des matières premières (et particulièrement du fondant aux cendres de plantes) et la petite échelle de production des centres islamiques, par rapport aux centres antiques. Un des apports importants de l'ouvrage est de synthétiser, ou de proposer, les seuils de discrimination entre groupes de composition et les meilleurs diagrammes binaires à établir pour différencier les six zones de productions primaires de verres aux cendres de plantes (K2O/P2O5 - MgO/CaO ; B/Na2O - Li/Na2O ; Th/Zr - La/TiO2 ; et AL2O - Cr/La (5)) (voir fig. 78) qui illustrent les différences dans le fondant, dans la source de silice et dans la manière de travailler. L'autre apport, dont il faut savoir grand gré à N. Schibille, est d'avoir effectué le délicat exercice de synthèse qui a conduit à ce volume, plutôt que de se contenter de produire des articles dans des revues d'archéométrie, rendant, ainsi, lisibles, pour un plus vaste public, les résultats de sa recherche novatrice qui touchent tant à l'archéologie qu'à l'histoire. - Marie-Dominique Nenna, Bulletin critique des Annales islamologiques, 38 | 2024, DOI :