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   View Categories Home > Catalog > |Medieval & Modern Coins| > |Medieval Artifacts| > AA99527
Islamic, Sphero-Conical "Mercury" Vessel, 9th - 15th Century
|Medieval| |Artifacts|, |Islamic,| |Sphero-Conical| |"Mercury"| |Vessel,| |9th| |-| |15th| |Century|, Sphero-conical vessels have been found from the Levante to Central Asia, dating from the 9th to 15th century A.D. More than 30 are in the Palestine Archaeological Museum and many others in collections in Jerusalem. Shape, style and decor vary greatly. They have been identified as vessels, fire grenades, aeolipiles, plumb bobs, and decorative finials.

R. Ettinghausen in "The Use of Sphero-Conical Vessels in the Muslim East" (1965) discusses specimens that have been found with traces of Mercury inside. In the Muslim world, mercury was used in medicinal drugs for headaches, paralysis, palsy, deafness, insanity, and loss of vision, as a tonic, and in salves employed against scabs, itch and mange. It was used in veterinary medicines and as poison against lice, mice, snakes and scorpions. In industry, it was used for backing of mirrors and embellishments. Ettinghausen notes, however, that despite conclusive evidence for use as mercury containers, this was not their exclusive function.

A. Ghouchani and C. Adle in "A Sphero-Conical Vessel as Fuqqa'a, or a Gourd for 'Beer'" (1992) provide convincing evidence that some of these vessels, especially some inscribed with Kufic, were used for storing and drinking beer. Examples of inscriptions include:
"As long as it is full, they will kiss it, When empty they will drop it."
"Do not give your heart to woman, because they will make a gourd of beer out of a man."
"Drink to your good health."
Literature and inscriptions indicate the "gourds" were placed in ice to cool the beer and the beer was under pressure and would gush out after the gourd was opened.

In one case, these "gourds" were actually used as grenades. The Arab historian Al-Damiri (1341 - 1404), wrote, "There are deadly scorpions around Nasibayn. It is said that they originated from Shahr-i Zur. A king encircled Nasibayn. He took the scorpions and put them into beer gourds and catapulted them into the city!"
AA99527. See Ettinghausen (1965) and Ghouchani-Adle (1992) for discussions of the type, near Choice, repaired crack, chips, tip of "cone" missing; 13.5cm tall, 12cm diameter, probably pre-Mongol, 9th - mid 13th century; unusual pine-cone decor (we did not find another in references or online), ex Mera Antiq (Yossi Eilon, Tel Aviv, 25 Jun 2013), found in Israel; $450.00 SALE |PRICE| $405.00

Catalog current as of Friday, December 1, 2023.
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