Filling the Gap in the History of Pre-Modern Industry: III
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2.2. Examples: part 2
Extensive use was made of pottery, for cooking, lighting and washing. In the bazaar in Cairo, according to a Persian writer of the 11th century, grocers, druggists and ironmongers provided the glasses, the faience vessels and the paper to hold or wrap what they sold. "Daily", Al-Maqrīzī (a 13th-century Muslim historian), tells, "there is thrown on to the refuse heaps and waste piles –waste to a value of some thousand dinars– the discarded remains of the red-baked clay in which milk-sellers put their milk, cheese-sellers their cheese, and the poor the rations they eat on the spot in the cook-shops ."
Different uses were made of pottery in Muslim Spain. Because of the widespread diffusion of the water lifting machine, the noria, its pot, the qādūs, became the universal unglazed pot and it must have been the mainstay of the rural pottery industry until it was replaced by tin fairly recently. The most popular pot, with a middle waist and a knob on the bottom to facilitate the lashing of the pot to the noria rope, is related to Syrian pots. Also common were flat-bottomed vessels with a hole in the bottom, which historian of technology Glick explains had a variety of purposes: as a casserole, according to an Andalusi-Magribi cookbook of the 13th century; as a flower pot, according to the botanist Ibn Baṣṣāl; and, in irrigated areas where delivery of water was timed, as an outflow clepsydra (hanging water clock) through the vent of which water issued in a determinate time .
In the East, pottery centres developed at Baghdad, Samarra and many other towns. In the 9th century the potters of Samarra and Baghdad distinguished themselves by making, perhaps inventing, lustre pottery. The decoration was painted in a metallic oxide upon the glazed coating of the clay, and the vessel was then submitted to a smoky and subdued second firing, which reduced the pigment to a thin layer of metal, and gave the glaze an iridescent glow . Exquisite monochromes were produced in this manner, and still more exquisite polychromes in gold, green, brown, yellow, and red, in a hundred almost fluid tints . The lustre technique was applied also to the ancient art of decorative tiles; the rich colours of these squares, and their harmonious combinations, gave unique splendour to the portals or mihrabs of hundreds of mosques, and to many palace walls .
Figure 12: Goblet, 9th century, probably from Egypt, transparent pale greenish blue glass, blown from two gathers and scratch-engraved (height 11.9 cm, diameter 9.2 cm). Inscription (in kufic script): "Blessings from Allah to the owner of the goblet. Drink!". Formulas including good wishes were commonly found on eating and drinking vessels in both pottery and glass. (Source).
Ceramics of finer quality were also produced, and firing workshops in general were very active throughout almost the entire Muslim world, the potteries of the Muslim east rivalling the faience workshops of Tunis and Cordova. The glazed faience tiles of Malaga, known as azuleios, are still famous. The diffusion of glazed wares into Spain from the East can be traced with great precision, owing to the chemical specificity of the glaze recipes . Thus we know that the blue glaze of cobalt oxide was introduced from the East to Málaga during the Taifa period, from where it spread to Murcia and then to Christian Spain, to Valencia (at the beginning of the 14th century) and Barcelona (at the end of the century) .
This following description of a modern potter's wheel is probably applicable to all those of the Middle Ages:
"The potter's wheel consists of a sloping tray over which is a wooden axis supporting a further piece of wood in the shape of a disc, the whole resting on a cross-bar. The lower wheel is turned by the craftsman with his foot, an action requiring no great expenditure of energy; in consequence of its inclination, the tray is carried round and over by its own weight ."
An 11th century Persian traveller conveys an idea of the quality of Egyptian faience at the time: "Egypt produces faience of every kind; so fine and transparent that a hand placed against the outside of a vase may be seen from inside. Bowls, cups, plates, and other utensils are made. They are decorated with colours that change with the position of the vessel ."
Historians today note with surprise the wide variety of eastern ceramics and the techniques employed in their manufacture. So rich was the Islamic industry in this field that it easily impacted on the West .
The history of ceramic production in the medieval Muslim world, from the period of the Umayyads in the 7th century to the Ottomans and Safavids in the 17th century, attests to the superior creativity and experimentation of Muslim potters, demonstrated through their innovations in shape and design, clay recipes, glazes, and techniques of decoration.
As shown by the recent studies, glazed and painted ceramics were highly sought commodities in urban as well as courtly contexts. Potters of the Islamic lands experimented with specially made tin and alkaline glazes that fired to an opaque creamy-white finish. Around the 12th century, they also developed alternative clay recipes by adding large quantities of crushed quartz to produce a hard, white ceramic body, known as "fritware" or "stone-paste". It was largely used in the Islamic world for different types of fine ceramics from the 12th century onward .
Throughout the Islamic world, glass was either cut from crystal or blown into moulds. Aleppo in Syria was mentioned as a glassmaking and decorating centre by the geographers Yaqūt Al-Hamawī (d. 1229) and Al-Qazwīnī (d. 1283). Damascus, too, was described as a glassmaking centre by Ibn Baṭṭūṭa (d. 1377) and Niccolo of Poggibonsi, who travelled in the Holy Land in 1345-46 . Excavations at Iabal, an Umayyad palace in the Syrian countryside, revealed a quantity of domestic glassware; excavations at Hama yielded a wide range of later material, mostly of the period between 1100 and 1400 . A large amount of glass has been recovered from excavations in Ierusalem where, according to the geographer al-Muqaddasī, lamps were made in the 10th century . Syrian glasses were particularly prized the world over. Even such fragile obiects as Syrian enamelled glass of the 13th century have been found in Sweden .
Figure 13: Window in stained glass, 17th century, Egypt or Syria (38.7 x 48.3 cm). A window such as this with brightly colored panes in blue, orange, green, and red might have been found in a room of an aristocratic home in the Islamic world. Tinted glass was favored because it filtered the light, but it also complemented the multihued furnishings of the room. (Source).
Islamic glass has also been found in a few medieval European sites, the discovery of such glass obiects in Sweden, southern Russia, and even in China, indicating that distance did not always prevent them being transported . Egypt was also famed for glassmaking, and continued to produce vessels of all qualities in the Islamic period . Excavations at Al-Fustat (the forerunner of Cairo, founded in 969) have provided an immense quantity of glass, ranging in date from the 8th century to the later Middle Ages; the sheer abundance of such finds presumes that Al-Fustat was a centre of production. Among the earliest datable obiects (the earliest datable glass weight was made in 708) are coin-like weights, stamped with the names of rulers or government officials . They came in a variety of colours, among which are dark green, light green and turquoise, white and purple. Some of the most sophisticated Egyptian glass vessels were decorated with lustre . This shiny, sometimes metallic effect was achieved by painting copper or silver oxide on the surface of the obiect, which was then fired at a temperature of about 600°C (1112°F) in reducing conditions. The same technique, as already noted, was used in the decoration of earthenware, not only in Egypt but also in Iraq and Iran. Until recently, controversy raged over the origin of lustre painting, but the problem appears to have been solved by the discovery at Al-Fustat, of a glass cup of local type, inscribed with the name of ‘Abd al-?amad, governor of Egypt in 771-772; Egyptian glass painters were therefore using lustre some time before its appearance in Iraq .
In Al-Andalus, glass vessels were blown in Almería, Málaga, and Murcia in imitation of eastern wares, such as the irakes –glass goblets– so favoured on the noble tables of 10th-century León. The technique of cutting crystal was said to have been introduced by ‘Abbās ibn Firnās (d. 887), scholar and inventor in the courts of ‘Abd al-Raḥmān II and Muḥammad I . It is worth pointing here to the genius of Ibn Firnās, who was not only able to decipher the most complex writing, but also made attempts at flying by building artificial wings . In relation to glass, he was familiar with the scientific properties of glass, and contributed to the early experiment with lenses and the idea of magnifying script by their use . He also lent his skills to the glass making furnaces of Cordova, and made a representation of the sky in glass, which he was able at will to make clear or cloudy, with lightning and the noise of thunder at the press of a finger .
Textiles were exceptionally important in the art and economy of Islam from the earliest times. Their role, Whelan notes, has been compared to that of steel in the modern industrial economy, and it has been estimated that in the Middle Ages textile manufacture and trade may have occupied a maiority of the working population . Some sources claim that there were 3,000 weavers in Cordova alone . Cordova made "Cordovan" leather for the "cordwainers" (cordobanes) of Europe, and also carpets, cushions, silk curtains, shawls, and divans, which found eager buyers everywhere . In al-Andalus, the production of eastern-style cloth was concentrated in the towns of Málaga and Almería, which, as ports, were the first to receive the new techniques or styles . Almería's role in this process was particularly important in the 12th century. In the industry of ṭirāz and of silk there were eight hundred workshops and one thousand for excellent tunics and brocade, and as many more for ciclaton . This pre-eminence can be partly explained, Whelan notes, again, by the variety of uses to which textiles were put in the Near East and along the Mediterranean shores. Aside from clothing, they also constituted the bulk of household furnishings; nomad women weaving tent bands, saddlebags, cradles, and other appurtenances of their mobile lives, but even in the urban centres and in the palaces furnishings consisted mainly of carpets, covers, curtains, and hangings of various kinds. Instead of chairs, people sat on cushions and leaned against bolsters, all covered with cloth whose quality and richness reflected their owners' means . Textiles also played an important political role. As well as lavish diplomatic gifts, it was customary to reward high officials and other favourites, both at regular intervals and on special occasions, with "robes of honour" (khil?a'), turbans, and other garments woven in the rulers' own establishments. It was also the Caliphs' prerogative — and after 1250 that of the Mamluk Sultans— to provide each year the new kiswa, the richly ornamented cloth that veiled the Kaaba at Mecca .
The full range of textile fibres was available in the Islamic world. Wool and linen were produced in quantity from Iran to Spain, and additional supplies of the latter were imported. Cotton, native to India was probably first produced on a large scale in the Mediterranean after the Muslim advance; especially in Syria and Palestine . The Muslims eventually took both crop and industry to Western Europe .
In addition to the various textile expressions derived from Arabic, some towns and cities were internationally recognised for their product. Shiraz was famous for its woollen cloths, Baghdad for its baldachin hangings and tabby silks; Khuzistan for fabrics of camel's or goat's hair; Khurasan for its sofa covers, Tyre for its carpets, Boukhara for its prayer rugs, Herat for its gold brocades . However, no examples of these products from this period have survived the wear and tear of time.
Figure 14: Two views of antique Damascus swords. Research on Damascus steel revealed the use of a proto concept of nanotechnology. (Source 1 – Source 2).
In the embellishment of Islamic life all the arts mingled like the interlaces of a decorative theme. So the patterns of illumination and calligraphy were woven into textiles, burned into pottery, and mounted on portals and mihrabs. "If medieval civilization made little distinction between artist and artisan," Durant notes, again, "it was not to belittle the artist but to ennoble the artisan; the goal of every industry was to become an art. The weaver, like the potter, made un-distinguished products for ephemeral use; but sometimes his skill and patience found expression, his dream found form, in robes or hangings, rugs or coverings, embroideries or brocades, woven for many lifetimes, designed with the finesse of a miniature, and dyed in the gorgeous colours so favoured of the East ."‘
2.2.5. Ship building
The Muslim world was dotted with shipyards making ships and vessels of various sizes and types. In Muslim Spain, for example, the economy of the ninth and tenth centuries stimulated alongside the construction of war ships the development of a navy designed for sailing along the coasts of the kingdom, and to more distant places, whether to the Baleiric islands, the North African coast or Egypt . In addition to Almeira, there were many Andalusian ports which constituted more or less important bases for warships, and also were equipped with ship building yards, called either Dār al-insha', or Dār ṣinā'at al-marākib (or simply Dār al-ṣinā'a), from which the modern word arsenal originated. Amongst them, Alcacer do Sal, Silves, Seville, Algeciras, Malaga, Alicante, Denia. At Tortosa, near Catalonia, an inscription shows that a shipyard was established under the orders of ‘Abd al-Raḥmānn III in 945, and it owed its renown to the quality of the wood of its surrounding forests .
During the medieval period, shipbuilding was a maior industry. It was directed towards the construction of merchant vessels and for building and fitting out warships. The main shipyards were the property of the state, but there existed private yards on the banks of the great rivers and the shores of the Gulf and the Red Sea, belonging to merchants and to private persons who use them for trade and travel. The shipbuilding industry was engaged in building many varieties of ships, from small oared skiffs to huge vessels aimed at performing long travels, of over 1000 tonnes capacity and warships capable of carrying 1500 men .
It is worth noting here that the world famous Chinese Admiral, Zeng He who built a fleet of gigantic iunk ships (each the size of a football playground) chartering the great oceans of the world, was a Muslim who performed pilgrimage to Makka whilst quite young, some say must have influenced his vision of the world outside China .
The impact of Muslim ship construction is not iust perceptible through the large number of words of Arabic origin to be found in modern Western languages, the best known being Arsenal and Admiral (originally Amīr al-baḥr), but in the impact Muslim ship construction made on the West ,
2.2.6. Agriculture and farming
A short word here courtesy of Scott on how the Muslims impinged on their neighbours in southern Europe in some of the basic aspects of agro-industries and crafts:
"The Moorish principality of Narbonne was subiect to the Western Emirate only forty years; yet, during that short period, the impressions produced by Moorish occupancy were so deeply stamped upon the mental and physical characteristics of the population that no subsequent revolutions have ever been able to entirely efface them. The practical genius of the Arab, which considered utility as the first and most valuable of all the obiects of civilization, was again exhibited in the improvements applied to all the arts and avocations of life, which sprang up in the track of his victorious armies. The Oriental principles of agriculture, with its painstaking tillage of the soil, its perfect irrigating system, its introduction of foreign plants, were applied with wonderful success to the delightful region watered by the Rhone and the Garonne. The bark of the cork-tree, still one of the greatest sources of wealth to Catalonia and Provence, was then first made known to Europe. The boundless evergreen forests on the slopes of the Pyrenees were utilized for the manufacture of pitch and rosin. In every district, the breed of horses was improved by crosses with the best blood of Arabia. Innumerable articles of luxury preserved in museums and private collections –beautiful obiects of silver, ivory, and crystal, damascened armour, and silken robes– attest the variety and excellence of the Moorish manufactures .'
Figure 15: Two Islamic knifes (khaniar) made of Damascus steel, wih a view on the detail of their surface. So-called Damascus steel swords were known from around the seventh century onward and dominated warfare for centuries as a result of their good toughness in combination with their outstanding cutting ability. The name derives from the fact that these swords were first encountered by Europeans in Damascus. Damascus steel swords are still regarded in this manner as evidenced by continuing efforts up to the present time to determine the methodology used to produce the swords. (Source).
 Quoted in G. Wiet et al., History of Mankind, vol. 3: The Great Medieval Civilisations, op. cit., p. 335.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages. Princeton, NI: Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 239.
 W. Durant, The Age of Faith, op. cit., p. 275.
 See Venetia Porte, Islamic Tiles. New York: Interlink Books, revised edition, 2004. Earlier editions include British Museum Press, London, 1st edition 1995, 2nd 1999; Interlink Books, New York, 1995.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p.239.
 G. Wiet et al., History, op. cit., p. 335.
 It is worth pointing out here that for anyone interested in how all these industries and crafts were passed onto the West, the briefest and most informative outline is provided by S. Feber, Islam and the Medieval West. A Loan Exhibition at the University Art Gallery, State University of New York at Binghamton, April 6-May 4, 1975. For ceramics, for instance, the article by R. Schnyder is very enlightening: R. Schnyder, "Islamic Ceramics: A Source of Inspiration for Medieval European Art", in S. Ferber ibidem.
 Fahmida Suleman, "Ceramics", Medieval Islamic Civilization, An Encyclopaedia, ed. Iosef W. Meri, New York-London: Routledge, 2006, vol. 1, pp. 143-144. See also the section on "ceramics" in A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 160-170 and Iames W. Allan, Islamic Ceramics. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991.
 D. Whitehouse, "Glass", in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, I.R. Strayer (editor in chief), New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980 fwd., vol 5, pp. 545-58; p. 547.
 Ibid, p. 546.
 R. Ettinghausen, "Muslim Decorative Arts and Painting their nature and impact on the Medieval West", in S. Feber (ed.), Islam and the Medieval West, op. cit.
 D. Whitehouse, Glass, op. cit., p. 546.
 Ibid, p. 546.
 On decoration techniques of glass, see A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 156-160.
 D. Whitehouse, Glass, op. cit., p. 546.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p. 241.
 A. Diebbar: Une Histoire de la Science Arabe, Paris: Le Seuil, 2001, p. 274; S. and N. Ronart, Concise Encyclopaedia of Arabic Civilization. The Arab West, Amsterdam, 1966, p. 142.
 A. Diebbar, Une Histoire, op. cit., 272-274.
 Levi Provençal, in G. Wiet et al., History, op. cit., p. 336.
 E. Whelan, "Textiles", in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. 11, p. 715.
 W. Durant, The Age of Faith, op. cit., p. 298.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p. 243.
 E. Whelan, Textiles, op. cit., p.716.
 E. Whelan, Textiles, op. cit., p. 716.
 W. Heyd, Histoire du Commerce du Levant au Moyen Age, Amsterdam: A.M. Hakkert Editor, 1967.
 W. Durant, The Age, op. cit., p. 278.
 E. Levi Provencal: Histoire de l'Espagne Musulmane, vol 3, Paris, Maisonneuve, 1953, pp. 154, 321-22; M. Lombard, The Golden Age of Islam, transl. I. Spencer; North Holland publishers, 1975, p. 192.
 E. Levi Provençal, Histoire de l'Espagne, op. cit.; M. Lombard, The Golden Age of Islam.
 On shipbuilding and navigation in the history of Islamic countries, see A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., pp. 123-131; and H. Homsi: "Navigation and Ship-building , in A. Y. al-Hassan, Y. Iskandar, A. Zaki, and A. Maqbul, (eds.), The Different Aspects of Islamic Culture. Paris: UNESCO, 2001; vol. IV: Science and Technology in Islam, Part 2, chap. 4-8.
 On Zeng He and his fleet, see Dreyer, Edward L. (2006). Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming, 1405–1433 (Library of World Biography Series). Harlow, Essex : Longman.
? Levathes, Louise (1997). When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405–1433. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
? Ma Huan (1970). Ying-yai Sheng-lan, The Overall Survey of the Ocean's Shores (1433), translated from the Chinese text edited by Feng Ch'eng Chun with introduction, notes and appendices by I.V.G.Mills. Bangkok: White Lotus Press. Reprinted 1997.
? Menzies, Gavin (2003). 1421: The Year the Chinese Discovered the World. New York: Morrow/Avon.
 This impact is competently outlined in W.M. Watt, The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe, Edinburgh University Press, 1972, pp. 19-21.
 S.P. Scott, History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, op. cit., vol 3, p. 65. For a detailed account of the Islamic agricultural revolution, see D. R. Hill's studies of the irrigation techniques in A History of Engneering in Classical and Medieval Times, London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1984, pp. 17 ff.; idem, Islamic Science and Engineering, op. cit, pp. 170-186; A. Y. al-Hassan and D. R. Hill, Islamic Technology. An Illustrated History, op. cit., "Agriculture and food technology", pp. 203-231, and Zohor Idrisi, The Muslim Agricultural Revolution, online at: http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=515.
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by: FSTC Limited, Fri 24 July, 2009