Various interpretations have been offered
regarding the actual function of such vessels,
from grenades, fire-blowers (aeolipiles), to
containers of precious liquids or plumb bobs.
Indeed recently the Conservation Department of
the Institute of Archaeology, University of
London, while analysing one sphero-conical
vessel, found traces of mercury, thus indicating
that some of these objects could have been used
to contain mercury.Other authors, relying on
epigrahic evidence, have suggested that some of
them would have stored beer. What seems logic
is that sphero-conical vessels, depending on the
shape and material, would have then served
different purposes. Not only were they eclectic in
function, they also have been found in sites
throughout the Middle East up to Central Asia,
datable from the 9th century AD up to the
Mongol invasion (13th century AD), attesting to
their incredible success as portable carriers of
For comparable examples see: G. Fehervari,
Ceramic of the Islamic World in the Tarek Rajab
Museum, 2000: pp 207-231.
Richard Ettinghausen, 'The Use of sphero-
Conical Vessels in the Muslim East', Journal of
Near Eastern Studies, XXIV, 1965: 218-229.
Sphero-conical vessel, carved stoneware with a
cylindrical central part, sloping towards the lower
end where it is pointed, sloping narrow shoulder,
raised at the base of the short neck with an
sloping rim. The body is decorated large dotted
roundels, alternating with large ribs; series of
roundels decorate the shoulder.
Iran or Central Asia, 9th – 12th century.
Comparative material: Fehérvári, 2000,
273, p.209; Watson, 2004, cat.nos.AD.1-3,
inv.nos.LNS518C, LNS735C and LNS345C and
Prof. Geza Fehervari
Prof. Geoffrey King