The sphero-conical vessel style of objects form a
distinct group, homogeneously brought together
by their shape and material. Often these objects
are the same size, however very large and very
small examples have been documented. 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 no
more than a few millimeters in diameter. Color,
texture and finish will vary, but most often these
objects are dark, fine grained and compact.
Firing appears to be high as to render the object
impenetrable, so there is no need for
waterproofing. The thickness of the walls gives
the object weight and strength, and no doubt
helps to improve water tightness. These objects
appear throughout the Islamic world in the same
form from east to west.
Over time the use of these curious vessels have
sparked an impassioned debate. Many of these
objects appear to have been thrown and others
have a mould-formed upper section. Rumored
uses of these objects include: hand grenades or
incendiary bombs, to be thrown full of naphtha
or petroleum with lighted brands to follow; 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
said to have an inscription stating that it was
meant to contain 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.