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Ancient Pottery
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


Late Roman - Byzantine, Syria-Palestina, Beit Nattif Imitative Ovoid Lamp, c. 270 - 500 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Syria-Palestina,| |Beit| |Nattif| |Imitative| |Ovoid| |Lamp,| |c.| |270| |-| |500| |A.D.|
The size and form of this lamp is similar to the Beit Nattif ovoid lamp type, but differs in decorative details. Beit Nattif Lamps are named after the site in the Judean Foothills in south-central Israel where a workshop for the type was found. The type was, however, imitated throughout Israel. This lamp is not a very close to match to any of the many examples published in our references. We believe it is an imitative made by a small workshop somewhere other than Beit Nattif that produced for local use. Beit Nattif| Lamps| page in NumisWiki.
AL93882. Beit Natif Imitative Ovoid Lamp, Adler 4.3, BN.1, 482 (decorations differ); Sussman Late LR2, 1162 (same), Choice, complete and intact, encrustations; 7.5 cm (3") long, c. 270 - 500 A.D.; mold made, buff-gray clay, traces of a brown slip(?), biconvex piriform shape, large filling hole with double rim, arches patterns on shoulder, tab handle ornamented with lines, slightly pinched nozzle with round tip, ring base; $130.00 SALE PRICE $100.00


Byzantine, Palaestina Secunda, Transjordan "Elongated" Oil Lamp, c. 400 - 620 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Byzantine,| |Palaestina| |Secunda,| |Transjordan| |"Elongated"| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |400| |-| |620| |A.D.|
This type is identified by Adler as a Transjordan elongated lamp. Adler writes that the shoulders are narrow and ornamented with a wide variety of motifs including linear bands, geometric, and floral designs; the handle is tongue shaped projecting horizontally and decorated with three or more bands; the nozzle is decorated with geometric or floral designs or rarely a cross. The type is found in the northern part of Transjordan, and in Israel, mainly in northern Israel and the Beit Shean area. They date to the fifth and sixth century but possibly also the beginning of the seventh century.
AL43874. Transjordan elongated lamp; Adler type JOR.1, cf. 970(similar ornamentation), Collectible, chips on nozzle and handle, scratch down side, earthen encrustations, 8.8mm (3 1/2") long, 5.9cm (2 3/8") wide, 2.8cm (1 1/8") tall, c. 400 - 620 A.D.; mold made, pink clay, elongated body, tongue shaped handle rising diagonally, double rim around large filling hole, radiating bands on convex shoulders, decorative circle on bottom (not a true ring base); $100.00 SALE PRICE $80.00


Byzantine, Palaestina Secunda, Imitative Beit Natif Lamp, 5th - 6th Century A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Byzantine,| |Palaestina| |Secunda,| |Imitative| |Beit| |Natif| |Lamp,| |5th| |-| |6th| |Century| |A.D.|
Sussman and Adler identify the type as a northern imitation of Beit Natif lamps. Sussman calls this handle type, which was not used at Beit Natif, "wing-shaped."
AL78101. Imitative Beit Natif Lamp; Adler type BN.6, cf. 952; Sussman Late p. 50, fig. 33, near Choice, handle broken otherwise complete and intact, attractive, 8.8cm (3 1/2") long, 5.5cm (2 1/8") wide, 2.9cm (1 1/8") high, 5th - 6th century A.D.; reverse Bet Shean, Byzantine Palaestina Secunda, Imitative Beit Natif Lamp, 5th - 6th Century A.D.; mold made, buff-gray clay, red-orange slip, elongated shape, large bow rim nozzle decorated with an ornate basket or amphora and small dotted annulets around, high rim around large filling hole, herringbone wreath around shoulders, large rectangular handle rising diagonally ornamented with a palmette, low ring base; $250.00 SALE PRICE $225.00


Byzantine, Palaestina Secunda, Bet Shean Lamp, 5th Century A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Byzantine,| |Palaestina| |Secunda,| |Bet| |Shean| |Lamp,| |5th| |Century| |A.D.|
Bet Shean, in the Beit She'an Valley in northern Israel, is about 120 m (394 feet) below sea level. It is one of the oldest cities in the region. During the Hellenistic period, it was named Scythopolis. Under Rome it held imperial free status and was the leading city of the Decapolis. In the Byzantine period, Bet Shean was primarily Christian, as attested to by the large number of churches, but evidence of Jewish habitation and a Samaritan synagogue indicate established minority communities. The pagan temple in the city center was destroyed, but the nymphaeum and baths were restored, and walls were built. In 409 it became the capital of Palaestina Secunda. After the Arab conquest and following a series of devastating earthquakes (most notably in 749), the city lost its prominence, and became a medium-sized country town. See our Bet Shean |Lamps page in NumisWiki.
AL93910. Bet Shean Lamp; cf. Adler type S.5, 823; Qedem 4, Hadad type 19, group 1, 127; Sussman Late 3158, Choice, earthen encrustation, soot on nozzle, 9.0 cm (3 1/2") long, 5th century A.D.; mold made, pinkish-brown clay, piriform biconvex shape, handle rising diagonally, crowded ornamentation that leaves no space empty: ring around filling hole, framed row pellets around filling hole and framing nozzle and flanking handle, herringbone on shoulder, rectangular geometric pattern on nozzle, lines on handle; $160.00 SALE PRICE $128.00


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syria Palaestina), Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp, c. 350 - 500 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syria| |Palaestina),| |Small| || |"Candlestick"| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |350| |-| |500| |A.D.|
The pattern on the nozzle, branches issuing from a central ridge, is often called a "candlestick," meaning it is a representation of the menorah. A more menorah-like variation has the "candlestick" on a tripod base. Some authorities believe it is a palm branch and it is sometimes indecisively called a a palm-menorah. The strongest evidence that the palm-menorah actually is a menorah is a variation of this lamp with a cross on the nozzle. This suggests that Jews and Christians used the same type of lamp, differentiated only by their respective religious symbol, a phenomenon also encountered on North African Red-Slip Lamps. The type is found across Israel but most commonly in Jerusalem and within 50 kilometers of Jerusalem. See our |Candlestick |Lamps page in NumisWiki.
AL43869. Small "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; Adler type BYZ.1; cf. Qedem 8 477; Sussman Late 1553; Bailey BMC -, Near Choice, small chip in nozzle, soot on nozzle, earthen encrustations; 7.9cm (3 1/8") long, 5.2cm (2") wide, 2.8cm (1 1/8") tall, small earlier variety, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; mold made, pink-buff light clay, biconvex tear drop shape, pellet replacing handle, double rim around filling hole with inner rim larger, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder continues on the nozzle with six branches from a central ridge (palm-menorah), ring base; $250.00 SALE PRICE $200.00


Late Roman - Byzantine, Holyland (Syria Palaestina), Miniature "Candlestick" Oil Lamp, c. 350 - 500 A.D.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Late| |Roman| |-| |Byzantine,| |Holyland| |(Syria| |Palaestina),| |Miniature| |"Candlestick"| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |350| |-| |500| |A.D.|
The pattern on the nozzle, branches issuing from a central ridge, is often called a "candlestick," meaning it is a representation of the menorah. Some authorities believe it is a palm branch and it is sometimes indecisively called a a palm-menorah. The strongest evidence that the palm-menorah actually is a menorah is a variation of this lamp with a cross on the nozzle. This suggests that Jews and Christians used the same type of lamp, differentiated only by their respective religious symbol, a phenomenon also encountered on North African Red-Slip Lamps. The type is found across Israel but most commonly in Jerusalem and within 50 kilometers of Jerusalem. See our |Candlestick |Lamps page in NumisWiki. This is the smallest example of this type known to FORVM.
AL78095. Miniature "Candlestick" Oil Lamp; Adler type BYZ.1; Alder 905 (7.4cm); Qedem 8 477 (8cm); Sussman Late 1553 (7.7cm), Choice, complete and intact, mild wear, 6.6cm (2 5/8") long, 4.5cm (1 3/4") wide, 2.2cm (7/8") high, c. 350 - 500 A.D.; grey-buff light clay, chalk inclusions, tear drop shape from above, no handle, double rim around filling hole, decorative radiating pattern around shoulder continues on the nozzle with six branches from a central ridge (palm-menorah), ring base; $270.00 SALE PRICE $243.00


Judaean Kingdom, Hasmonean Dynasty (Maccabees), Hellenistic Style Local Lamp, c. 200 - 30 B.C.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Judaean| |Kingdom,| |Hasmonean| |Dynasty| |(Maccabees),| |Hellenistic| |Style| |Local| |Lamp,| |c.| |200| |-| |30| |B.C.|
Most Palestinian lamps of the second and first centuries B.C. were of local workmanship and style. Some lamps, such as this type, "show general pan-Hellenistic features, but their origin is beyond doubt because of provenance, comparative material and fabric." -- Rosenthal, R. & R. Sivan in Ancient Lamps in the Schloessinger Collection.
AL78087. Judaea, Hellenistic Style Local Lamp; cf. Qedem 8 322; Sellers 1933 p. 51, fig. 42; Revel Collection 48, Choice condition, tiny chips in rim, soot on nozzle, 7.9cm (3 1/8") long, 5.2cm (2") wide, 3.4cm (1 3/8") high, c. 200 - 30 B.C.; pink-orange clay, cream slip, round body with rounded sides, high tapering rim on filling hole, elongated nozzle, low string-cut disk base; ex Mera Antiq (Yossi Eilon, Tel Aviv, 22 Jul 2009), found in Israel; $270.00 SALE PRICE $243.00


Judaean Kingdom, Hasmonean Dynasty (Maccabees), Miniature Archaic Style Oil Lamp, c. 167 - 37 B.C.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Judaean| |Kingdom,| |Hasmonean| |Dynasty| |(Maccabees),| |Miniature| |Archaic| |Style| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |167| |-| |37| |B.C.|
This tiny Hasmonean era lamp imitates a shape and high base of pinched-rim stepped base oil lamps used in the Kingdom of Judah during the Iron Age IIC, 720 - 586 B.C. During the Hasmonean era, archaic imitative lamps were popular in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. They reconnected the Jewish people to the golden age of the Davidic dynasty centuries before. This particular specimen is particularly small, less that half the size of most of the Hasmonean imitatives and would fit inside of the bowl of most similarly shaped Iron Age lamps. Click here to see an example of a Kingdom of Judah prototype.
AA78096. Hasmonean Judaea Archaic Style Folded Buff Oil Lamp; Tushingham fig. 22, 7 (larger and without high base), Choice condition, tiny chip in base; 5.2cm (2") long, 4.0cm (1 5/8") wide, 2.7cm (1 1/8") high, buff clay with chalk inclusions, strongly pinched spout forming an elongated channel and U-shaped spout, near vertical saucer walls, rounded turned-out rim, thick flat "stump" base; ex Mera Antiq (Yossi Eilon) Tel Aviv, found in Israel; $450.00 SALE PRICE $405.00


Judaean Kingdom, Hasmonean Dynasty (Maccabees), Archaic Style Folded Buff Oil Lamp, c. 167 - 37 B.C.

|Oil| |Lamps|, |Judaean| |Kingdom,| |Hasmonean| |Dynasty| |(Maccabees),| |Archaic| |Style| |Folded| |Buff| |Oil| |Lamp,| |c.| |167| |-| |37| |B.C.|
This Hasmonean era lamp imitates the style of much earlier Bronze and Iron Age pinched rim oil lamps. During the Hasmonean era, these archaic imitative lamps, more finely made and smaller than most of the originals, were popular in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. They reconnected the Jewish people to the golden age of the Davidic dynasty five centuries before. See our Pinched| Rim| Oil| Lamps| page in NumisWiki.
AL78082. Hasmonean Judaea Archaic Style Folded Buff Oil Lamp; Tushingham fig. 24, 9, Choice condition, tiny chip in nozzle, 7.2cm (2 7/8") long, 4.7cm (1 7/8") wide, 3.3cm (1 1/4") high; buff clay, wheel made then folded, soot on nozzle, ex Barakat Antiquities (Old City Jerusalem), found in Israel; $400.00 SALE PRICE $360.00




  






REFERENCES

Adan-Bayewitz, D. Common Pottery in Roman Galilee : A Study Of Local Trade. (Ramat Gan, Israel, 1993).
Adan-Bayewitz, David & Moshe Wieder, "Ceramics from Roman Galilee: A comparison of several techniques for fabric characterization' in Journal of Field Archaeology 19, no. 2 (1992), pp. 189 - 205.
Amiran, R. Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land From its Beginning in the Neolithic Period to the End of the Iron Age. (New Brunswick, NJ, 1970).
Ben Tor, A. Two Burial Caves of the Proto-Urban Period at Azor, 1971; the first season of excavations at Tell-Yarmuth, 1970. Qedem 1. (Jerusalem, 1975).
Ashmead, A. & K. Phillips. Classical Vases, Excluding Attic Black-Figure, Attic Red-Figure and Attic White Ground. (Providence, RI, 1976).
Cook, R. Greek Painted Pottery. (London, 1961).
Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum - CVA Online - https://www.cvaonline.org/cva/
Dayagi-Mendels, M. & S. Rozenberg. Chronicles of the Land: Archaeology in the Israel Museum Jerusalem. (Jerusalem: 2011).
Dothan, T. Excavations at the Cemetery of Deir El-Balah. Qedem 10. (Jerusalem, 1979).
Ephraim S. Excavations at Tel Mevorakh (19731976). Part One: From the Iron Age to the Roman Period, Qedem 9. (Jerusalem, 1978).
Ephraim S. Excavations at Tel Mevorakh (19731976). Part Two: The Bronze Age, Qedem 18. (Jerusalem, 1984).
Flinders, P. & J. Quibell. Naqada and Ballas. (London, 1896).
Giorgos, G., M. Webb & D. Frankel. Psematismenos--Trelloukkas: An Early Bronze Age Cemetery in Cyprus. (Nicosia, 2011).
Gitin, S. (ed.). The Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors, Volumes 1 and 2: from the Iron age through the Hellenistic Period. (Jerusalem, 2015).
Gitin, S. (ed.). The Ancient Pottery of Israel and Its Neighbors, Volume 3: from the Middle Bronze Age through the Late Bronze Age. (Jerusalem, 2019).
Hayes, J. Greek and Greek-Style Painted and Plain Pottery in the Royal Ontario Museum. (Toronto, 1992).
Hayes, J. Greek and Italian Black-Gloss Wares in the Royal Ontario Museum. (Toronto, 1984).
Hayes, J. Handbook of Mediterranean Roman. (Bath, 1979).
Hayes, J. Roman Pottery in the Royal Ontario Museum. (Toronto, 1976).
Hendrix, R., P. Drey, J. Storfjel. Ancient Pottery of Transjordan - An Introduction Utilizing Published Whole Forms Late Neolithic through Late Islamic. (Berrien Springs, MI, 2015).
Johnson, F. The Farwell Collection: Monographs on Archaeology and Fine Arts. (Cambridge, MA, 1953).
Kelley, A. The Pottery of Ancient Egypt Dynasty I to Roman Times. (Toronto, 1976).
Kenyon, K. Archaeology in the Holy Land. 5th ed. (1985).
Mackenzie, D. Palestine Exploration Fund Annual 1912-1913: Excavations at Ain Shems (Beth-Shemesh). (London, 1913).
Marquent-Krause, J. Les fouilles de 'Ay (et-Tell): La Resurrection d'une Grande Cite Biblique. (Paris, 1949).
Mazar, A. Excavations at Tell Qasile, Part Two: The Philistine Sanctuary: Various Finds, The Pottery, Conclusions, Appendixes. Qedem 20. (Jerusalem, 1985).
Meredith, K. & A. Harnwell. Classical Vases, Excluding Attic Black-Figure, Attic Red-Figure and Attic White Ground. (Providence, RI, 1976).
Morris, D. The Art of Ancient Cyprus. (Oxford, 1985).
Negev, A. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. (New York, 1972).
Nicholson, F. Greek, Etruscan and Roman Pottery. (1965).
Nigro, L. Tell Es-Sultan/Jericho in the Early Bronze II (3000-2700 BC): the rise of an early Palestinian city, A synthesis of the results of four archaeological expeditions. (Rome, 2010).
Oman, T. A Man and His Land, Highlights from the Moshe Dayan Collection. (Jerusalem, 1980).
Pande, B. "Harappan Ring-Kernoi: A Study" in East and West, Vol. 21, No. 3/4 (September-December 1971), pp. 311-323.
Rotroff, S. Hellenistic Pottery: The Plain Wares. The Athenian Agora Vol. 33. (Athens, 2006).
Sala, M. "Early Bronze II pottery productions at Tell es-Sultan" in Tell Es-Sultan (Rome, 2010), pp. 253 - 323.
Skupinska-Lovset, I. The Ustinov collection: The Palestinian pottery. (Oslo, 1976).
Stewart, J. Corpus of Cypriote artefacts of the Early Bronze Age, Parts 1-4. SIMA 3:14. (Gteborg, Jonsered, Uppsala, 1988 - 2012).
Talcott, L. "Attic Black-Glazed Stamped Ware and Other Pottery from a Fifth Century Well" in Hesperia, vol. 4, No. 3, (1935), pp. 476 - 523.
Tushingham, D. Excavations in Jerusalem, 1961-67, Vol. I. (Toronto, 1985).

The list above excludes references for oil lamps. References for oil lamps are listed on the shop's lamps page.

Catalog current as of Friday, December 1, 2023.
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