large persian style plate
Large plate with fine Safavid style decoration bought in the old Nizwa copper souq , could be 400 years old
IMPORTS TO OMAN

This sections contains many objects that are assumed to be  imports to Oman, however several may very well have been produced in Oman, like part of the the Persian style copper-work. We start this section with a Royal Present (hand-painted plate) given by the king of England William IV as a present to the sultan (Imaum) of Oman (Said bin Sultan) in 1837 as part of the contents  of the yacht Prince Regent.

Americans had an active trade with Zanzibar and Oman during the first half of the 19th century. Many cloves and most Omani dates were exported to the USA.  The American bark (type of ship)  Imaum (built in 1850) sailed between the American harbour of Salem and Zanzibar. A picture of this ship has been handpainted on a wooden box, maybe by a sailor.

Wooden box Salem Zanzibar

 The American bark Imaum (built in 1850) sailing between Zanzibar and Salem in the US
Based on an oil painting that used to be in the possession of the owner's family
 

Oman had for a long time possessions in Persia e.g. Guadur but also for example Bandar Abbas. Between 1794 and 1868, Bandar Abbas was under the control of Oman through a lease agreement with Persia.The Omanis controlled the coastal stretch of some 100 miles from Sadij to Khamir and inland about 30 miles, as far as Shamil. Also Persian craftsmen worked in Oman for centuries. This explains why we come across Persian artefacts in Oman. You may very well argue these items are Omani with Persian designs.  The Persian Safavid style copper-ware was purchased in the old Nizwa copper souq and was in the 19th century referred to as "Shirazzi".  The wine that was produced in Oman (from the many grapes grown on the Jebel Akhdar) by the Beni Riyam tribe  was also referred to as Shirazzi. In fact a village / area with extensive vine-yards located close to Saiq on the Jebel Akhdar mountain plane was called Shiraz (see the map by Wellsted).   Several of the "Shirazzi" copper / bell-metal bowls in our collection are in fact wine-bowls (see the V & A book by A.S. Melikian -Chirvani on Islamic Metalwork) In 1673 the Dutchman Padtbrugge writes in his VOC report "The coating of copper with tin by use of sal-ammoniac is here just as usual as in Persia, because all their pots, saucers, and table-dishes are made of brass " The Chinese provincial pottery commonly found in the Omani souqs dates from around 1780 to 1840. The ginger-pots were typically used in Oman for storing honey and dates.  it is very well possible that the Persian tinned copper-work (pots, saucers, table-dishes) preceded  the later Chinese provincial pottery. For comparison purposes we have added some jewelry from Yemen, that is bordering Oman in the south.

There is also a ancient staircase, cut out in the rocks, going up the the Jebel Akhdar, named the Persian steps and inside Nizwa fort we find ancient Persian canons.

Safavid copper in Oman

Wine making Oman Jebel Akhdar Shiraz

This is part of the first detailed map of Oman by Wellsted in 1842. Note the village Shirazi on the Jebel Akhdar plain!!

Wellsted describes that many grapes are being grown on the Jebel and that wine is being produced on the Jebel Akhdar!!!

Maybe the grapes, wine making and wine bowls were introduced by Persians  who occupied Oman a long time earlier.

The BBC documentary "The secret history of Shiraz wine" did not make a link to wine making in Oman, but there could very well be a link to the production of Shiraz wine!!

 

Perisan winebowl Oman

Persian Winebowl Oman (purchased in Nizwa)

Jebel Akhdar: two hundred years ago grapes grew on the Jebel and Wine was made

Antique sfavid style copper

In 1672 the Dutchman Padtbrugge visited Muscat and described the craftsmen in the Muscat souq and the techniques they used. He writes "The trade and crafts are mostly practised by people from Sind  and Banians (Hindus).  Prisoners from Diu (a Portuguese colony in India) fill the gap left by local craftsmen. One finds however many Arabian rifle-makers and sword-cutters, and also anchor black-smiths and cannonball-blacksmiths, etc."  This confirms that craftsmen from other countries have been working for centuries in Oman. Therefore items we identify as possible imports may in fact  have been made by Persian or Indian craftsmen working in Oman.

Worcester Flight Barr and Barr plate titled "Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove" This plate is part of a unique royal service given in 1837 by the King of England William IV to Said bin Sultan / Imaum of Oman and Zanzibar (father of Emily Ruete)

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Worcester Flight Barr and Barr plate titled Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove

Extremely rare hand-painted plate and of historic importance to Oman with the title" Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove" This plate was part of a Flight Barr & Barr royal service presented by The King of Britain to Sultan bin Said (father of princess Emily Ruete) and sent on board the yacht  Prince Regent.  So only one dinner set was produced! 

 Mr R W Binns (see ref 3) described the dinner service in his book “A Century of Potting in the City of Worcester, being the history of the Royal Porcelain Works from 1751 to 1851” published in 1865 and in 1877:  "The plate is from one of the last services made by Flight & Barr and was made as a present from King William IV to the Imaum (=sultan) of Muscat.  The Imaum in 1836 had sent as a present to the King a small teak battle ship of the line (Liverpool) , containing presents of an Eastern character (including several Arab horses) In return, the King (of Britain) gave a present of his royal yacht, the “Prince Regent”, which was freshly fitted out with gilding and painting and filled with presents, including musical instruments and the Flight Barr and Barr dinner service.  Yachts, cots and what-nots, all gegilt and gefamed”.  The Imaum is said to have been highly indignant at what he regarded as a very tawdry present of a small sailing yacht, having expected a steam vessel. The dinner service is actually of great elegance with the gilt gadrooned edge, and the green ground border, reserving the Imaum’s crest at the top and in the centre of the pieces a remarkably accurate painting of the Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove, showing the scene of the approach to the harbour with the forts on the twin rocks guarding the entry"

 

Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove

 Above: The Illustration of the Flight, Barr & Barr plate "Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove" in the book by R.W. Binns published in 1856. The illustration matches the plate in our collection.

 

Prince Regent entering Muscat cove Flight Barr and Barr

The ship Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove. Part of service given by the King of England to Said bin Sultan.

 

Princess Emily Ruete and her husband owned one of these plates. That plate was given to Sultan Taimur of Oman in 1928.

Princess Emily Ruete and her husband Heinrich owned one of these plates. Heinrich bought the plate in England before 1870. That plate was given to Sultan Taimur during his visit to London in 1928. The Sultan put the plate  into his study at the palace in Muscat!  The above text was handwritten by Rudolph Said -Ruete the son of Princess Emily Ruete (Bibi Salme). See ref 4.

 The plate has some scratches in the green border, otherwise in fine condition. The back is stamped: Royal porcelain works Flight Barr & Barr Worcester Coventry St. London. It also has a mark consisting of a crown and a letter pressed into the porcelain (similar to older pieces of Worcester porcelain) . The crest of the Sultan consists of a golden crown and a red background and with 7 small crescents. Below a large golden crescent. We assume the used Crest of the Imaum / Sultan is a British invention, however we are not sure about this (for centuries Oman had a red flag as its symbol which may explain the red background to the crown and crescents. The crescents represent Islam and the chosen type of crown reflecting the importance of a Sultan compared to other noblemen in Europe. The ship Liverpool was given by the Sultan / Imaum to King William IV was sailed by Captain Cogan in 1835 from Bombay to England. The ship also had two fine Arabian horses on board as part of the present. During September 1837 it was again Captain Cogan who sailed the Yacht Prince Regent, the Kings return-present to the Sultan, to Zanzibar, the rich furnishing of the ship included the Worcester dinner service.  Captain Cogan was rewarded for his good work with a sword. The sultan also gave him the title Kejan Khan (i.e. a Noble) While the official records state the Sultan was very happy with the presents (Arab politeness?), several other sources, including the adventurer/ writer Richard Burton, indicate he was very unhappy with the yacht Prince Regent.... The British have not been very successful with their presents to the Sultans of Oman and Zanzibar. Queen Victoria sent a coach to the sultan, but unfortunately Zanzibar lacked the roads to use a coach. When Oman gave the Kuria Muria islands with its very rich fertiliser (Guano) deposits to the British they gave only a golden snuff box in return. The biggest disaster happened in 1844 when queen Victoria sent a rich set of silver cutlery as a present to the Sultan of Zanzibar. When the consul in the presence of the Sultan opened the crate supposedly containing the present, it contained to their horror  a gravestone!  Clearly crates had been mixed up. (The gravestone was intended for a diseased wife of an African missionary) For more details see Notes of Travel by Joseph Osgood (ref 7)

Below the title on the bottom of the plate

 

Name: "Prince Regent entering Muscat cove"  Worcester Flight Barr and Barr plate, part of a specially made royal service given by the King of England William IV to the Sultan (Imaum)  of Oman Said bin Sultan on board a yacht that was also a present. The yacht the Prince Regent is hand-painted in the center of the plate before Muscat cove note the  red flag on the yacht (flag of Oman)

Period: The royal service was produced in 1837

Origin: Royal service made  in England by Flight Barr & Barr  and presented by The King of Britain to Sultan bin Said (father of Bibi Salme) and sent on board  the ship Prince Regent (shown on the plate)

References:

  1. Richard Burton, Zanzibar: City, Island and Coast, Tinsley Brothers, London. two volumes. Volume 1 pages 268-269: "The useless, tawdry 'Prince Regent"presented by H.B. Majesty's Government to the late Sayyid , was by him passed over in 1840 to the Governor-General of India. it was sold at Calcutta, and for many years it was, as a transport, the terror of the eastern soldier. The Sayyid could not pray amongst the 'idols' of gilding and carving; he saw pollution in every picture , and his Arabs supposed the royal berth to be the Tabut Hazrat Isa - Our Lord's coffin. Instead of this article he wished to receive the present of a steamer, but political and other objections prevented. See Wellsted's Travels in Arabia vol I p 403. This author exposes , without seeming to know  that he was doing so , the selfish and short-sighted policy of the H.E.I. Company which wanted a squadron subsidiary to its own"
  2. A soup-terrine from the same royal dinner service approx. 28 cm high with heavily damaged but restored cover was sold at auctioneers Lempertz in Germany for 16000 euro lot 732 November 14  2014 See slide-show photo! This terrine did not have the crown mark pressed into the porcelain, however it did have one of the Flight Barr & Barr marks printed in red.
  3. The plate and its spectacular background is described in  detail in Mr R W Binns  book titled “A Century of Potting in the City of Worcester, being the history of the Royal Porcelain Works from 1751 to 1851” published in 1865 and in 1877. page 126 to 128 incl large illustration of identical plate!!!!!
  4. The Said Ruete Library in the NINO Leiden owns a copy of Burtons Zanzibar: City, island  and coast. Rudolph Said Ruete (son of Pricness Emily Ruete) has handwritten on the bottom of page 269 of  volume 1: "A plate with the picture 'Prince Regent entering Muscat Cove' was produced by Royal Porcelain Works Flight, Barr and Barr.  Worcester Coventry London . Purchased by my father in England before 1870. presented to Sultan of Muscat , Taimur when in England in 1928. In his study in Muscat"
  5. BBC Antiques Roadshow in Dyrham Park Sept 23 2013 a large terrine from the same dinner service was shown / discussed, but this one did not have the indented marks on the bottom
  6. At Adams´s auction in Dublin Ireland an identical plate was sold for GBP 520 excluding premium. March 12 2008. The auction  catalog did not mention the important pedigree / background of the plate........
  7. Joseph B.F. Osgood, Notes of Travel  or recollections of Majunga, Zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports, Salem 1854 page 65-66 "More reasonable charity is it to question the judgement and forsight of those entrusted with their selection, than to attribute the avarice of the Imaum the displeasing fate of the presents sent him by the English and American governments. The gross misrepresentation that he sold, with perfect contempt, the several presents made by our government, in 1833 should be peremptorily contradicted. The coach which queen Victoria sent him, at an expense of nine thousand dollars, could add to the pleasure and comfort of the Imaum, upon the soft impeding sands of Zanzibar, about as much as a pair of the Imaum's clumsy, wet-weather sandals would add to the value and utility of Queen Victoria's splendid wardrobe. By good authority I have been informed that it has not been dismantled of its decorations that they might be sold, but it still remains in the casing in which it was sent.         The light yacht which our government sent him in 1841, at a cost of three thousand  dollars, was destined to be shaken into fritters, in the hand of rough Arab boatmen, had they not endangered the Imaum's life by nearly upsetting it while he was on board. Not thinking it is a safe boat he had it laid up in ordinary on board his frigate "Shah Allum" (King of the World) where it gained the commendation of the British consul  and the Imaum in his generosity made him a present of it. His liberality was subsequently rewarded by the gift from the consul of a safe boat procured in this country at an expense of 450 dollars. In this connection it may be well remembered that the Arabian Horses sent by the Imaum about that time as a present to the president of the United States, were sold by public auction in the  city  of Washington. A rich silver service was presented to him by Queen Victoria in 1844. The British consul, soon after he had been informed by letter that this intended present had been shipped, was notified of the arrival of a case of merchandise, directed to him; not being informed of its contents and supposing that the case contained the Queen's gift, he sent it to the palace, to be opened in the presence of the Imaum. Imagine the holy horror and supersttious awe of the Imaum, and the discomfiture of the consul, when the contents of the case proved to be a gravestone, intended to perpetuate the memory of a recently deceased wife of an African missionary. Said's superstition will perhaps excuse him for bestowing the silver service upon his personal friends when it did arrive, soon after"
  8. Wellsted Travels in Arabia London Vol 1 page 403
  9. History Indian Navy II p 15
  10. Proceedings of the Royal Asiatic Society, 6 V 1837 p 12
  11. Gobineau, Trois ans en Asie, 1859 p 90

Box with handpainted picture of the sailing ship (bark) Imaum of the harbor Salem in the USA

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Box with picture of the sailing ship Imaum of the harbor Salem in the USA

Very rare wooden box (light wood) with a picture of the sailing-ship the Imaum of Salem. The ship was built in 1850. This ship belonged to the American trader named Benjamin A. West from Salem who  had a few ships transporting goods between Zanzibar and Salem. Said bin Sultan was Imaum of Oman and Sultan of Zanzibar, he died in 1856. The American ship is clearly named after him. There was an intense trade between the American harbour Salem and Oman / Zanzibar.    Large quantities of dates were exported from Oman to Salem (USA) during the early 19th century, so the trade was not just with Zanzibar.  Important piece for the History of Zanzibar and Salem. See slide-show for another  painting of the ship. Extremely rare memento of the ship and trade by the famous Mr Benjamin A. West (nicknamed "Zanzibar West") to Zanzibar and Muscat during the 19th century. Apparently the West family owned a oil painting with a similar painting of the ship Imaum. Size 12,5 by 10 cm. 

Name: Box with hand-painted picture of the American ship Imaum from of the US harbour Salem.

Period: Around 1850

Origin: unclear, maybe work by an American sailor on-board the ship or someone in Zanzibar??

  1. George Granville Putnam, Salem vessels and their voyages, The Essex institute 1924. Second of four volumes discusses the trade on Zanzibar including the  ships Imaum and the Taria Topan. Between pages 88 and 89 of Vol 2 is an illustration of the ship Imaum:

Bark Imaum

 

The ships  Imaum and the Taria Topan  were not just used for trips between Zanzibar and Salem but visited many different harbours. The Taria Topan is named after the Taria Topan  the tax collector of the Sultan of Zanzibar, see elsewhere in this website.

Maria Theresia Thaler.

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Maria Theresia Thaler.

Very common Maria Theresa Thaler coin. Oman itself had the distinction of possessing the oldest Islamic coin mint in the Arabian Peninsula (Dirham in the Umayyad period) see Ref 3 for more details. Oman´s international trade required however the use of more widely recognised currencies. This explains why for centuries foreign coins like that from Venice, Austria (Theresia Thaler) and India (Rupee) played a key role.

The picture shows a Theresia Thaler with date "1780", however thalers with this date have been produced until the 1950´s...... They are called "re-strikes" Until the 1970´s it was an important  currency of payment in several countries in the Middle East. For more details see Ref 1. The coin was minted since 1741. The number of Thalers minted since the death of the empress is estimated at four hundred million!  Already in 1762 the Danish explorer Carsten Niebuhr reported the use of the Theresia Thaler during his travels in Yemen! The thalers are also frequently used in necklaces with the "double eagle surface" on the front. The coin has 83,33% silver.

Quite a lot of  Omani silver jewelry was made from melted down Theresia Thalers, hence the very high silver content of Omani jewelry. Diameter 4 cm and weight 22 gram. In 1838 Wellsted writes on page 125:

" In the interior cities of Oman the following coins are used. All have inscriptions , but nothing bearing a likeness to any object in animated nature: A Basi, Mahmudi, Spanish dollar, Shuk"

In 1900 S.M Zwemer  Ref 2 " The Rupee is the standard of value along the whole Arabian coast from Aden to Busrah. In the interior the Maria Theresa dollar has long held sway , but even that is becoming scarce among the Bedouins and they have little preference between the "abu bint" (the Rupee with the girls head) and the abu Tair (the father of a bird- the eagle on on the Austrian dollar) .

Name:  Maria Theresia Thaler, with the fictitious date "1780"

Period: 1780-1950

Origin: Persia (Decoration style suggests Khorosan Herat district)  or Oman. 

    References:
  1. A silver legend. The story of the Maria Theresa Thaler by Clara Simple.
  2. Cradle of Islam by S.M. Zwemer  p 225
  3. History of currency in the Sultanate of Oman 1990 published by the Central bank of Oman.
  4. Ethnic Jewellery from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands 2002 Amsterdam Pepin Press  p 47

Large copper tray and a plate with very beautiful Safavid type designs and architectural scroll-work (very old piece).The back of the tray is seriously corroded.

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Large plate with very beautiful Safavid type designs

Very rare large copper tray  with very beautiful artistic  Safavid type designs (In Oman this style of copper-work is referred to as Shirazzi) .   This spacious Safavid design dates from a specific period very close to 1600 used in the  Khorosan Herat district Persia (see ref 1) page 268 fig 67 and page 270 fig 69.

 In 1673 Padtbrugge writes "The coating with tin by use of sal-ammoniac is here just as usual as in Persia, because all their pots, saucers, and table dishes are made of brass" (see ref 6) Diameter 80 cm and weight  8,3 kg. The back of the plate is heavily corroded, confirming significant age (given Oman´s dry climate) The "less crowded / spacious design" is closest to that in the V&A book by Melikian (ref 1) page 268 fig 67 dating around 1600. " Use of geometrical scroll-work as a background to the animal medallions" The design includes very fine illustrations of hare, gazelles and leopards. The fine architectural scroll-work in the empty spaces has the shape of large arches which maybe represent abstract flowers or bells!

Persians and Persian goods were boycotted for a period by the Omani since the Persians last occupied their country. See e.g. Wellsted (ref 2)  in 1836: page 16  "It is only very recent the former treachery of of the Persians has been overlooked by the Arabs. During Imam Saaf´s reign a garrison of the latter admitted into town; but taking advantage of that prince´s habitual vice of drunkenness, they on one occasion  seized upon the forts, deposed him, and usurped government. After they (the Persians) in their turn were dispossessed, they were not allowed in any considerable number to reside within the town (muscat) ; but since the marriage of the Imam (the sultan) with the Princess of Shiraz, that order , with several other restrictions, has been rescinded"

The Dutchman Padtbrugge when visiting Muscat in 1673 reports that he has seen  Persian craftsmen working in the Muscat souq.  Purchased in the old copper-souq in Nizwa during the early 1980´s.  So there are three options for origin:

  1. Persian (made in Persia)
  2. Made by Persian craftsmen in Oman
  3. By Omani who copied the Persian style in particular when Persians were boycotted by Omani after their occupation of Oman. This may explain the copper-work with "diluted designs"

In the case of this tray the origin is almost certainly Persian and dating from around 1600  (so option 1 or option 2)

For several of the pieces in the next two groups of copper-work, the origin may very well be Omani (option 3)

Antique safavid copper

antique Omani copper

antique Omani copper

 

Large very old Persian trayantique safavid copper

 Antique Persian copper plate

Small Persian copper plate with different design

Central decoration very worn but similar Ref 1 page 302 fig 132A

 

Detail of small Persian copper plate

Another small Persian plate is shown in ref 1 page 354 fig 167a

Name: Siniyyah / Shirazzi

Period: 1580-1630

Origin: Persia or Oman

    Description:
  1. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World A.S. Melikian-Chirvani 1982 Victoria and Albert museum
  2. Sotheby´s auction Art of the Islamic world London Lot 185  3 October 2012
  3. J.L. Carter Tribes in Oman Peninsular publishing 1982 page 111 
  4. Traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia 1981 by John Topham p 157
  5. Nederlanders aan de kusten van Oman"1991 by B.J. Slot (contains the information on Muscat by Padtbrugge)
  6. Travels in Arabia by Wellsted Volume 1 1837
  7. Oman-Holland A short history of the relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Netherlands by Dr. B. Slot 1993 (English translation of reference 4)

Antique bowls with Safavid type designs (some with high quality artistic designs) . Some (wine) bowls seem to be cast copper.

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Cups and bowls with vine Safavid type designs

Eleven different pieces of copper ware with with Persian Safavid designs.  As Oman has been occupied for long periods in the 17th century it is difficult to determine if these items are Omani or Persian. There were also a few Persians working in the Omani souqs in the 17th century (see eyewitness account Padtbrugge) The designs are definitely 17th century Persian (Safavid) for many similar examples see the book by Melikian  (ref 1)

  • The first bowl is very shallow  and with a beautiful detailed designs (not made of bell metal)
  • The larger wine-bowls (!)  are mostly cast from copper, (if you tick against them they ring like a bell) and subsequently engraved. 
  • The  small cups maybe coffee cups or water-cups used by Hindu (see below)
  • None of the "Persian" copper found in Oman had human figures in its decoration

Very fine designs (but very worn) , probably a very old piece

Antique Omani copper

The fine design on the foot is found on other old pieces e.g. Ref 1 page 311 fig 138  and also Ref 1 page 331 fig 151.

antique Omani copper

In the 1830´s wine  grapes and wine (Wellsted (ref 5)  calls it shirazzi) were produced in large quantities on the Jebel Akhdar  mountain plane see Travels in Arabia Volume 1 by Wellsted. In fact the vineyard area on the Jebel Akhdar planes was also called Shiraz (close to the current village named  Saiq) Hence the wine bowl explanation is very plausible! Around 1830 Oman was a wine exporting nation according to Wellsted! In Yemen these bowls are also occasionally found but with very diluted designs (later copies? ) They were said to be used for pouring water in the Hamman. Dating is also difficult, but generally speaking the more "diluted"  the Safavid design the more recent the copper-ware  (see for example e.g. ref 3) Around 1850 the American Joseph Osgood visited Muscat and he wrote: "When traveling every Banian (=Hindu) carries his own bell-metal goblet or bowl to drink from, and should he chance to leave this article of personal property behind he would abstain altogether from the use of liquids. Should his supply of water be exhausted during a long passage, he would  prefer death to life saved by drinking from a vessel polluted by persons of a different religion, and at an expense of his caste, to be deprived of which he considers is a loss of the comforts of his religion and all its supposed benefits after death"

History Shiraz wine Oman

 Wellsted 1842: Village named Shirazi on the Jebel Akhar. At that time grapes were grown on the Jebel Akhdar and wine produced!  Nizzuwah is Nizwa.

Carter ref 3 page 11 has an illustration of two later wine-bowls and says: the two bowls, called Shiraziyah  in Oman, also purport to have been made at Nizwa possibly the beginning of this century . Comment the bowls shown are made of cast copper and subsequently engraved

Secret History of Shiraz wine BBC

Antique Persian Wine Bowl from Nizwa

Similarities with wine bowl in Western Iranian style from Kashmir ref 1 page 351 fig 165

Antique Persian copper bowl

Antique Persian bowl

Some familiarities with a bowl from Khorasan / Herat ref  1 page 279-280 fig 117

 

Antique Safavid copper

Very fine Safavid designs on this small tinned bowl, a very old piece

Westen Iran: Top border decoration identical to the bowl ref 1 page 335 fig 154a

 

Antique Islamic metalware

Antique Islamic metal-ware (text not deciphered)

Name: Tas / In Oman the large bowls are named Shiraziyah (!!). Some of these are in fact Persian wine bowls! Shirazzi may also refer to the Shirazzi type of  grapes and wine produced in the past  on the Jebel Akhdar.  

Period: 1600-1830

Origin: Persia or Oman. Purchased in Nizwa´s old copper souq during the early 1980´s : Found under tons of dust in the old  deserted workplaces. In the 1980´s only two Omani coppersmiths had remained in the old Nizwa copper souq. These two men were selling the left over copper in the different deserted workplaces and  even the Omani doors of these old workplaces  were for sale.

    References:
  1. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World A.S. Melikian-Chirvani 1982 Victoria and Albert museum
  2. Sotheby´s auction Art of the Islamic world London lot 185 October 3 2012
  3. J.L. Carter Tribes in Oman Peninsular publishing 1982 page 111 
  4. Traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia 1981 by John Topham p 157
  5. Nederlanders aan de kusten van Oman"1991 by B.J. Slot (contains the information on Muscat by Padtbrugge)
  6. Travels in Arabia by Wellsted Volume 1 1837
  7. Oman-Holland A short history of the relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Netherlands by Dr. B. Slot 1993 (English translation of reference 4).
  8. Joseph B.F. Osgood Notes of Travel  or recollections of Majunga, zanzibar, muscat, Aden, Mocha and other Eastern ports, Salem 1854 page 100

Two Antique copper food / bowl covers and a bell metal ink-pot or candle cover with Safavid designs. These covers are named Sarpush

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Copper food covers and a bell metal ink-pot cover with Safavid designs

 

Two very rare copper dish covers (Sarpush) and a bell metal ink-pot cover with Safavid designs. On Persian paintings we frequently see food-covers, but these are seldom offered for sale.

 

 

We have 3 examples in our collection:

  1. The first cover has some fine Safavid designs  and a band  with calligraphy and has some similarities to the cover shown in Melikian (ref 1)  page 321 fig 145.
  2. The second huge dish cover (Sarpush) has a diameter of 35 cm and is approx 27 cm high and weighs nearly 3 kilo and has a wide band with calligraphy (Persian / Arabic) around it. The text is unfortunately unknown to us (see photos in slide-show) If anyone can help with the Arabic / Persian text we would be very grateful.
  3. The third small (ink-pot) cover (named davat) has been cast from bell metal and deeply engraved/incised. For similar covers see Melikian (ref 1)  page 282-285

Antique Persian dish cover

  ad 1 Persian style dish cover (dome shape)
Western Iran Central band decoration similar to Ref 1 page 331 fig 151
Persian dish covers with different decoration can be found in ref 1 pages 305, 321 & 344 
Each panel with animal decoration is followed by a panel with abstract floral decoration
 
antique Safavid copper sarpush
ad 2 This large Persian dish-cover Sarpush weighs nearly 3 kg
This very unusual shape looks like a Persian Tent, while most look like a dome

antique safavid foodcover

ad 2 We have not yet been able to proper decipher the text on this very large food cover.  If anyone can decipher this let us know!! 

Antique safavid copper

ad 2 food cover very fine calligraphic text

antique safavid dish cover

ad 2 Dish cover (Sarpush) seen from the top

Antique Sarpush 

ad 3 small heavy cover, probably for an inkwell (made of cast bell metal)

As Oman was occupied for periods by the Persians it is difficult to distinguish if the items are Persian or Omani. Also Persian craftsmen  worked in the Omani souqs. However the designs are 17th century Safavid. There have also been periods when Persian craftsmen wee not allowed in Oman.

Dating is also difficult, but generally speaking the more "diluted" the Safavid design the more recent the copper-ware

Name: Sarpush

Period: 1600-1840

Origin: Persia or Oman. Purchased in Nizwa´s old copper souq duirng the early 1980´s : Found under tons of dust in the old deserted workplaces. In the 1980´s only two Omani coppersmiths were left over and had turned partly into antique dealers...

    Below you find a Youtube film relating to the Safavid dynasty in Persia:
    References:
  1. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World A.S. Melikian-Chirvani 1982 Victoria and Albert museum
  2. J.L. Carter Tribes in Oman Peninsular publishing 1982 page 111 
  3. Traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia 1981 by John Topham p 157
  4. Nederlanders aan de kusten van Oman"1991 by B.J. Slot (contains the information on Muscat by Padtbrugge)
  5. Travels in Arabia by Wellsted Volume 1 1837 Oman-Holland A short history of the relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Netherlands by Dr. B. Slot 1993 (English translation of reference 4)
  6. British Museum on-line Ingram collection  2012,6030.132 Large upside-down bowl-shaped stand made of beaten copper. Inscribed with bands of Persian verses and punched floral and palmette patterns. Diameter 44 cm Used as a base to hold a lamp-stand (e.g. see 2012,6030.131) Previous welding visible on the top

Chain with antique prayer beads made of amber (Tasbih)

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This prayer chain (Tasbih) with very old amber beads (Birmite) was purchased 30 years ago in Nizwa, at that time new 6 golden granulated beads from the Muttrah souq were added (to make it a fine necklace) . Four beads including two finial beads have not been included but are kept separately with the chain.  We do not know if these beads were made in Oman, India or Persia. The amber beads are probably over 200 years old.  Length 57,5 cm . Diameter largest bead 1,1 cm.

 

While we are not sure if these amber beads were made in Oman, we do know that in 1672 very fine chains with prayer beads (of glazed pottery) were made in Muscat.  The Dutchman Padtbrugge who visited Muscat on 1672 writes"They can also turn clay quite well, because the beads of their rosaries (in reality the Arabian praying-string) which the Roman Catholics call paternosters, all must be turned, and those things are a prestige-object. The potters are very handy in glazing"

 

Antique Omani Tasbih made of amber birmiteAntique Omani Tasbih

A very old Omani prayer chain made of amber converted into a fine necklace

 

The chain is made of amber from Birma, this is called Birmite.  When held against the light you can see with a magnifying glass many small cracks (a feature of Birmite). Again when we hold a bead against the light or using flash photography the beads look more reddish (cherry colour) The colour of Birmite is influenced by temperature, humity, air and age. These beads are probably over 200 years old.  Birmite mines were closed between 1936 and 1999, when they reopened again. In Asia and in partiuclar in China there has been a lot of interest in in Birmate. 

Antique amber prayer beads birmite

 Notice the small internal cracks in all the amber (birmite) prayer beads

In Islam, prayer beads are referred to as Misbaha (Arabic: مسبحة mas'baha ), Tasbih or Sibha and contain 99 beads, corresponding to the Names of God in Islam. Sometimes only 33 beads are used, in which case one would cycle through them three times. The beads are traditionally used to keep count while saying the prayer known as the "Tasbih of Fatimah", which was a form of prayer offered as a gift by Muhammad to his daughter, which is recited as follows: 33 times "Subhan Allah" (Glory be to God), 33 times "Al-hamdu lilah" (Praise be to God), and 33 times "Allahu Akbar" (God is the greatest) which equals 99, the number of beads in the misbaha. It is highly recommended to recite this prayer after the daily five ritual prayers.
Use of the misbaha to count prayers and recitations is considered an acceptable practice within mainstream Islam.While they are widely used today in Sunni and Shia Islam, adherents of the Ahmadiyya and Salafi sects shun them as an intolerable innovation. According to Mirza Tahir Ahmad of the ahmadiyya community, the use of prayers beads is a form of innovation which was not practised by the early Muslim community. Antique prayer-bead chains made of Birmite are very collectible and valuable.

 

Omani antique prayer beads

 

The finials that were not included in the necklace, but kept separate.

References:
  1. Wikipedia
  2. The History of beads by Lois Sherr Dubin (bead 906 on the beadchart after page 112)
  3. Feedback British Museum (Jill Cook) The ideal environment  for amber is around 18 Celsius and 55% humidity. The heat prevalent in the climate of Muscat and high temperature differences between day and night may have may have played a role in the crazing on the surface of the beads. Crazing is a network of fine cracks on the surface of a material. (however we did not find this effect on some other old amber beads purchased in Oman)

Ancient small glass Trade Wind Beads used in Zanzibar and East Africa

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Trade wind beads found in Zanzibar

Smallest bead 1 x 1 mm and the largest bead is 6 by 7 mm. Length of the chain is 55 cm.

The British Museum has almost identical small glass beads from Zanzibar. These ancient beads were found in Zanzibar / Pemba during the the early 1900's and donated to the British Museum.  The British Museum identifies the origin of most of the glass beads as probably being from Persia (Iran) See the slide-show for comparable beads in the BM. The book by F.B. Pearce (see below) gives more details about the beads that could be found around Zanzibar during the early 1900's.It should be noted that before the arrival of the Portuguese the trade with Arabia was run by the Kingdom of Hormuz (1000-1500). This kingdom was run by Persians  (Shirazzi?) en Omani Arabs.

A recent scientific study (ref 2) by Marilee Wood etc. Zanzibar and Indian Ocean trade in the first millennium CE: the glass bead evidence concludes that some of the glass beads found on Zanzibar Island (Unguja Ukuu and Fukuchani) are several thousand years old, while  others are from a later period but also many centuries old. Many beads may originate from South and South-East Asia. Glass Beads were not  completely made in Zanzibar however evidence was found that glass tubes were imported and locally converted into beads. See also the Slide-show for a photo of these beads (copied from this paper) Our beads look very similar but not sure they are also that old.

Antique glass beads Zanzibar

F.B. Pearce writes in 1919 (ref 1) : "Besides Carnelian beads , pierced amethysts and garnets  and great quantities of glass beads are also found at certain states of the tide at the ruined towns in Pemba. They are generally considered to be of Arabian or Persian manufacture, and date from the twelfth to the fifteenth century; although some specimens may be considerably older and date from the Ptolemaic period. The most common bead  found at Ndagoni is a large, irregularly shaped bluish-green glass bead of a distinctive character. After heavy rain they may be picked up by hundreds. That they are of somewhat archaic manufacture is evident from the irregularity of their shape ans size. Many appear to have become distorted in the process of being made.  The question is often asked how the existence of such quantities of beads in the sea-sands of Pemba can be accounted for:

1) That they formed part of a cargo of a wrecked ancient ship

2) That they have been washed out of ancient graves by the encroaching sea.

3) That they are the remains of some propitiatory or thank -offering made by the former inhabitants of the ruins, to the sea

4) that a bead factory factory or depot existed at the towns where beads are now found and that the encroaching sea has liberated the beads.

The fourth explanation seems the most probable . It is worth noting that at Mogishu in Italian Somali-land one of the oldest Persian or Arab settlements on the coast, complete apparatus for the manufacture of glass beads, glass stems, and coloured beads has been found (see Justus Strandes Die Portugiesenzeit von Deutsch und English Ostafrika). If a glass-bead manufacture existed at Mogdishu there is no reason why similar establishments should not have been erected elsewhere in the region" e.g. page

The necklace section contains a long chain with antique silver, wooden and  ancient glass beads. 

References:
  1. Zanzibar the Island metropolis of Eastern Africa by F.B. Pearce, Barnes & Noble 1919 page 355
  2. Zanzibar and Indian Ocean trade in the first millennium CE: the glass bead evidence by Marilee Wood,  Panighello, S etc. published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 20 Jan 2016; Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2016). doi:10.1007/s12520-015-0310-z
  3. British Museum Af1922,0307.4.a-w (identical yellow glass beads) Sizes 0,2-0,8 cm Probably made in Iran. Donated by Miss Le Neven Foster in 1922 Found in Zanzibar.
  4. British Museum Af1959,21.27.a-e (identical red glass beads) Sizes  0,1-0,6 cm  Donated by J.H. Vaughan 1959  Zanzibar Pemba.  Findspot: Mtambwe Mkuu, "From shore near high water mark"
  5. British Museum Af1922,0307.1.a-cr (96 identical red glass beads) Sizes 0,1-0,5 cm Origin Persia (Iran) Donated by Miss Le Neven Foster in 1922 Found in Zanzibar
  6. British Museum Af1959,21.39.a-d (similar green glass beads) Donated by J.H. Vaughan 1959  Ndogoni, Pemba Is. ZANZIBAR "from shore near ruins" (?)
  7. British Museum Af1959,21.12.a-c. Similar blue/green glass beads Size 0,2-0,6 cm Excavated/Findspot: Mtambwe Mkuu NDOGONY Pemba Zanzibar, "From shore near high water mark" Donated by J.H. Vaughan 1959  
  8. British Museum Af1935,1015.2 String of similar glass beads in various colours. Found in Zanzibar. Donated by : McElderry 1935.
  9. A Handbook on Beads by WGN Sleen, Libraire Halbart Liege 1973 Contains section on  beads from Coastal East Africa / Zanzibar page 76- 91 and several references in the rest of the book.
  10. The History of beads by Lois Sherr Dubin, Harry Abrams New York 1995 page 67 contains information on Trade-wind-beads page 67 Tradewind beads of brick red, yellow, green and black opaque glass, probably dating to the fifteenth century A.D. These distinctive beads were made in India by a drawn glass technique. Many similar beads were exported . beginning in 200 BC and continuing up to the seventeenth century. They are labeled trade wind beads because they are found in  archaeological  sites by the Indian Ocean in East and South Africa  and are believed to have arrived there in the ships of Arab, Indian and Chinese traders who sailed with the monsoon winds and ocean currents. The beads are also found throughout South-east Asia, including Thailand , Java, Malaysia and Sumatra. Of particular interest are the brick red beads known as "Indian reds" in Africa and as Mutisalah in Timor. The beads shown in the photo on page 67 belonged to the Corning museum of glass and the origin of the beads was determined in 1957 by Mr. WGN van der Sleen based a comparison of similar 15th century beads excavated in Brahmapuri. 

These Regout Maastricht ceramic bowls were produced between 1883 and early 20th century. In the same period, 10 kilometres from Maastricht, in Luik / Liege copies of Martini Henry guns were produced for the Omani arms trade named "Muscat Martini Henry's"

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Regout Maastricht

In the souqs of Oman we were very surprised to find a lot of pottery from Belgium  and Holland. The Dutch pottery was mostly produced by  Regout in Maastricht in the Netherlands . The Regout marks on the bottom of the pottery shown here were in use from around 1883.

Maastricht is only about 10 kilometres away form Luik / Liege in Belgium. The Maas river passes through both towns. During the period the pottery was made in Maastricht, copies of British Martini Henry rifles were made in Liege/Luik by e.g Dessart. These rifles are known by collectors as "Muscat Martini Henry's" clearly  made for the Muscat arms market!!!!

One of the bowls has the design "Cenis"and this was used from 1883.The other bowl  has the design "Pompeia". This is a design that was first used in the 1850's but in combination with the Regout mark we can conclude that it has been produced from 1885 onwards. During the very early 20th century the Regout Mark changed again, giving an end date for the production.

Regout Maastircht Pottery Oman

Regout transfer-ware bowl with design Pompeia (produced from 1884) The design was already first used in the 1850's, but in combination with the Regout mark we can date it from 1884 onwards.

Regout Transfer-ware bowl with design Cenis (produced from 1894)

 It is very strange that this type of pottery was exported from Belgium and Holland to Oman, Oman had already become quite poor by this period.  Oman was impoverished by then because of the:

  • Split of Oman and the much more prosperous Zanzibar Omani colony. Zanzibar had to pay an annual fee to Oman as compensation, but this had stopped after a while (against the agreement)
  • Switch from sailing ships to larger steamships (no need to stop anymore at Muscat)
  • Continuous fighting between tribes in the interior and the Sultan on the coast (Sultan had to pay off tribes to maintain the peace. If the Sultan did not pay up he was attacked and the money obtained by the tribes through plundering. Even the Sultan's palace was plundered.
  • Violent Wahhabi gangs / tribes  from current Saudi Arabia also had to be paid off by the sultan to maintain the peace.
  • The Sultan did not have sufficient money to pay the previously mentioned  "bribes" so he had to borrow from the British and became completely dependent on them.
  • Ending of the slave trade. In 1902 the Portuguese captured an Omani fleet 11 ships with 114 Omani crew  and 725 African slaves. The 114 Omani from Sur were imprisoned by the Portuguese for a long time. This ended the slave trade from Sur

This also resulted in  Omani traders taking up lucrative activities such as the illegal gun trade. In Belgium a lot of guns including copies of Martini Henry's were produced. These guns are even called "Muscat Martini Henry's".  Many of these guns were even supplied to rebels fighting the British in Afghanistan and India. For details on the Omani involvement in the illegal arms trade at that time see see Ref 1 Keppel.

It is therefore very likely that loads of pottery from Belgium / Holland was used to fill free cargo space in the ships to supplement the  gun shipments. It is also even possible that the pottery was used to hide the guns, but his is pure speculation we have so far not found hard evidence of this.  

Name: Regout Maastircht Netherlands  Models Cenis and Pompeia

Period: 1883-1910

Origin: Purchased in the Omani Muttrah souq over 25 years ago

Regout Pompeia Design

The website GeheugenvanNederland has detailed information on when specific Regout designs were first used (see above illustration) .Therefore we know that our specific Pompeia design plus Regout Mark was first used from 10 July 1884.

References:
  1. Gun-Running and the Indian North West Frontier, by Keppel, publisher John Murray London 1911:
  • Page 50:  From 1897 the Sultan of  Muscat issued a proclamation granting to the British and Persian men of war the power to search vessels in Muscat waters.e.g. on board s.s. Baluchistan 220 cases of arms and ammunition were found destined for Bushire.....By 1902 the trade through Persian and British Baluchistan had assumed such proportions that the law and order on the Perso-Baluch frontier was threatened
  • Page 52:  To avoid vessels being searched Omani ships sailed under the French flag! In 1905 this practice was forbidden by the International court in The Hague. ...
  • Page 53/54:   In 1909/1910 so numerous were the captures of gun running dhows that skippers soon learnt to look before they "skipped"
  • Page 124 : As the centre of arms traffic in the Gulf, Muscat naturally bristles with rifle depots and stores. The Customs House quay is seldom unencumbered with cases of rifles and ammunition , while every other shop in the bazaar is a rifle shop.
  • Page 125: Owing to a naval blockade by the British there are in Muscat at least 200.000 rifles and probably 3.000.000 rounds of ammunition for which  a market cannot be found.

British Naval staff searching Omani ship for slaves or arms

250 year old brass tool for casting twelve bullets (most probably of Dutch origin) There is a good possibility that the mould belonged to the VOC ship Amstelveen wrecked on the coast of Oman in 1763!

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Slideshow Tool for casting musket multiple bullets (probably of Dutch origin)

Very rare tool for casting twelve bullets (probably of Dutch origin or alternatively English, confirmed by the Scheepvaart museum Amsterdam) Several almost identical copies were recovered from the ship Hollandia that sunk in 1743 (probably part of its cargo).

There are 4 of these moulds in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and one in the Scheepvaart Museum  Amsterdam,  all these originate from the wreck of the Amstelveen. These moulds are extremely rare.

As these moulds are extremely rare it is difficult to date them precisely. It is assumed that the iron moulds of this type date from the 17th century and that the Brass /Bronze molds date from the 18th century.  

The wooden handles are missing and the tool has been repaired (a long time ago) with missing brass pin to hold the handle replaced by iron.  32 cm long. 

The Scheepvaart Museum thinks the bullets were intended for a handgun.

 It is possible that the tool was purchased by Omanis from the Dutch. Robert Elgood in his book (Ref 10) page 85 writes:  "In their conflict with the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean the English and the Dutch supplied gunners, cannon and ammunition to the Omanis, who successfully evicted the Portuguese in 1650" However the moulds of the 17th century were of iron.

 

Bullet mold     Bullet mold     Bullet Mold 18th century      

Antique Bullet mould 

Name: Tool for casting musket multiple bullets (bullet mould / bullet mold)

Period: 1700-1800 (Brass / Bronze bullet molds)

Origin: This tool was purchased in Nizwa in the interior of the Sultanate of Oman (long distance from the sea!)  in the old copper-souq during the 1980´s. There are no makers marks on the tool (maybe still hidden under the oxidation)  to definitely decide whether it is Dutch or English. Both Dutch and British were active in that period in the Persian Gulf e.g. Bandar Abbas.  Bandar Abbas was later leased for several years by Sultan Said bin Sultan. However, there is a high probability that the mould originates from the  Dutch ship Amstelveen stranded on the coast of Oman in 1763  see ref 7! In 2013 new attempts were made to find the wreck of the ship in Oman. Attempts failed due to lack of visibility of the water and project abandoned.

  1. Scheepvaart museum Amsterdam. Object A.4849(16): Kogelgiettang voor dertien musketkogels, gemerkt met XXIII From the ship Hollandia wrecked in 1743. Length 41, 5 cm including the wooden handles. Comment: My tool is nearly identical to this one. The Scheepvaart museum assumes that the bullets were intended for an handgun.
  2. J.P. Puype Jaarverslag 1975 van de Vereniging Nederlands Historisch scheepvaart museum. Aanwinst beschrijving. In the 1975 museum annual the tool recovered from the Hollandia that sunk in 1743 is described in detail
  3. Kogel giettangThe Visser collection arms of the Netherlands  Zwolle 1996. De Giettang staat in Deel 3 Cat 701 pagina 492-493
  4. Kaat Scheerlinck, Militaire metaalvondsten uit het kasteel van 
    Middelburg in Vlaanderen Academiejaar 2015-2016 (00803719)  page 139-148 Een nog  geavanceerder type giettang is gevonden bij Kasteel Middelburg.
  5. Noël Hume 1969, page 221
  6. Hildred et al. 2011, page 30
  7. 2012 Shipwreck & Survival in Oman 1763. The fate of the Amstelveen and thirty Castaways on the south coast of Arabia, based the notes by Cornelis Eyks by Klaas Doornbos 2012 Amsterdam Pallas Publications
  8. Tribute to Oman 1993/1994 Shipwreck "The ongoing quest for the Amstelveen" by Wilhelmina van Rijn page 118-123
  9. Firearms of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum Kuwait 1995 New York Tauris Publishers p 85
  10. Nationaal Militair Museum Soest Netherlands  has a similar but a crude and later example "Object 092614: Messing kogelgiettang voor diverse soorten ronde munitiekogels, totaal 17 stuks (1800-1939)
  11. Robert Elgood

Chinese and other shards found in places like Qalhat, Julfar and Kilwa reflecting the past trade with China

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Early Chinese shards found in places like Qalhat , reflecting the trade with China

Shards found in places like Qalhat, Kilwa and Julfar , mostly Chinese predating 1510 when the Portuguese Albuquerque plundered these cities.  Even Marco Polo has described the Omani city of Qalhat. In additional to Chinese also Islamic and Thai pottery porcelain shards can be found. Similar pieces found during the excavations in Julfar, see reference. This reference is very useful in dating these pieces.

 Antique Chinese procelain Oman

Collection of Chinese porcelain shards found in Oman

Name: Chines porcelain shards

Period: 14th to 18th century

Origin: China

 References:

  1. Julfar an Arabian port. Its settlement and Far Eastern Ceramic Trade from the 14th to the 18th centuries  by John Hasman, Royal Asiatic society of Great Britain and Ireland 1985. Similar ceramics was found in julfar as in Oman. The book gives some indications of the origin and age of these shards.
  2. Oman Faces and places, articles from PDO News magazine 2009 page 94-96 article on Qalhat
  3. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 48
  4. The National Museum of Oman Highlights published by Scala Arts & Heritage publishers in  2016 page 48 shows an early piece of China found in Sohar.

Chinese 18th century Rosewater-sprinklers

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Rosewater sprinklers

Rare Chinese 18th century Rosewater-sprinklers for the Arab market. See the slide show for photo´s of the pottery marks on the bottom.

 In Oman traditionally after coffee has been served rosewater is sprinkled over the hands and sometimes over the heads of guests. Rosewater is made by putting crushed rose-petals in water, which is then left for several days to allow evaporation to strengthen the solution.

 

Name: Chinese 18th century porcelain rosewater-sprinklers (for the Islamic market)

Period: 1750-1800

Origin: Chinese

References:

  1. Period and Origin determined by a well known  German auction-house

Large collection of antique Chinese porcelain purchased in Oman

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Slide-Show: A collection of antique Chinese porcelain purchased in Oman

The slide-show shows photos of a pottery  collection consisting mostly of low cost (provincial) Chinese pottery / porcelain:

a) Chinese ginger-jars and other pots typically used to store honey. The jar  with the blue and milk-white and bottom with blue circle is probably 17th cent. See ref 1 for article on Omani honey

b) Large rice bowls. The "dragonchasing pearl" rice bowls are quite rare and valuable. Origin maybe south east Asia rather than China?

c) Plates (these plates are extremely difficult to date, and  some could be older as the time-range indicated (same designs already used during the Ming period)

Antique Chinese gingerpot OmanAntique Chinese gingerpot Oman

Antique Chinese gingerpot OmanAntique Chinese Ricebowl Oman dragon chasing flaming pearl

Two identical large rice-bowls with "dragon chasing flaming pearl design bought in Nizwa

From south East Asia dated pre 1800.

The pearl is associated with spiritual energy, wisdom, prosperity, power, immortality, thunder, or the moon. The dragon dance movement "dragon chasing the pearl" shows that the dragon is continually in the pursuit of wisdom.

The Chinese dragon dance  is often led by a person holding a spherical object representing a pearl. The dragon dance movement

Antique Chinese gingerpot OmanAntique Chinese gingerpot Oman

Name: A collection of antique Chinese porcelain purchased in Oman

Period: 1780-1840

Origin: China (one or two items may be Japanese and the rare early bowls maybe from south east Asia) Purchased in the Mutrah souq during the early 1980´s .

 

Youtube film about beekeeping Oman:

 

  1. Throw down the anchor The story of the Muttrah souq by Maxine Burden, centre for Omani dress, Muscat Media Group 2014 pages 210-211 contains an article on Omani honey.
  2. British Museum online   Ingrams Collection 2014,2011.119 and 2014,2011.121 Identical Chinese rice bowls (with the painted  floral and calligraphic motifs)  Width 24 cm

Large bronze Octagonal Mortar, probably Persian and very old

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Slideshow Large bronze Mortar, probably Persian, very old

Very rare large octagonal bronze Mortar (probably Persian). Probably very old, dating  before 16th century? Weighs over 10 kilo.  Measures: 12,5 cm high and 19,5 cm diameter. So far no pieces identified with similar designs. The casting of the detailed designs is a little bit crude. Mortars also played an important role in pounding coffee.

In 1836 Wellsted writes in his travels of Arabia "One of the slaves kept pounding coffee from the time they first arrived. The pestle on these occasions is made to strike the sides and bottom of the mortar in such time and manner as to cause it to resemble the chiming bells, and the slave usually accompanies it with a song" This very large heavy mortar has probably not been used for preparing coffee. In fact the bottom of this mortar has been used as frequently as an anvil (based on all the dents) ....

Name: Havan

Period: 12th -16th century?

Origin: The shape of the mortar looks similar to early Persian pieces. However this particular design not identified so far.  Also never seen another example of such a large mortar in Oman. Purchased in Oman Nizwa during the early 1980´s

 References:

  1. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World A.S. Melikian-Chirvani 1982 Victoria and Albert museum page 68 fig 38 and page 111 fig 42   (same shape but different and more refined  designs)

Antique Rhino horn dagger from Persia or India

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Rhino dagger form Persia or India

 

 

Rare antique dagger purchased in Oman but made in India or Persia.  Handle made of Rhino horn inlaid with ivory.  The watered steel blade and handle are adorned with fine silver and flower designs. 

 

 

 Antique Omani dagger rhino

 

Name: Unknown

Period: Probably 18th century or earlier, in view of the beautiful golden patina on the Rhino horn.

Origin: India or Persia?

No References

Small collection of silver from Yemen

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Shumlaylat bracelet Yemen 1930´s

 The slide-show contains photos of a small collection of Yemeni silver including:

1) A Bracelet  (Shumlaylat) 1930´s See Also British Museum Ingrams collection 

2) A cylinder shaped Koran-Box. Part of bridal jewellery Sanaa.

3) A necklace with Dutch 19th cent silver Rijks-daalders and fine detailed silver beads (for filigree beads see also British Museum Ingrams collection)

4) A boys Jambiya (knife missing)

5) A knife handle

6) A collection of silver rings

7) A square Koran box covered with filigree and high quality silver (unusual in Yemen)

Antique Yemen silver bracelet

ad 1) Antique gilded silver bracelet from Yemen named Shumlaylat from 1930's

Interesting to compare the shown Yemeni designs and techniques with that of Omani silver.  The high quality Yemeni silver items were made by Jewish silversmiths, however they nearly all fled to Israel in 1948 "operation magic carpet" see Wikipedia for more details. Esther Muchawsky-schnapper Ref 1 has exactly the same Shumlaylat bracelet. In Sana such bracelets were part of the outfit for a Jewish bride and a new mother. These bracelets are fashioned by Sana´s foremost Jewish silversmiths and are amongst the finest examples of Yemenite filigree work (shabk) The necklace has many old Dutch silver coins (Rijksdaalders) several from around 1870: Many Yemeni men worked during the 19th century and early 20th century as traders in the Dutch Indies typically Sumatra or  Java. When they retired they went back to the Yemen e.g. to the Hadramouth and frequently built huge houses. When the Dutch diplomat van der Meulen (Ref 5) visited the Hadhramaut in the 1930´s he was astonished to find that Javanese- Malaysian  was the second language .  In the right season the tradewinds took the Yemeni to southern India and Sumatra. In the other monsoon season the winds would take them to East Africa, controlled by  Omani traders.

Antique Yemeni silver Ring

ad 6) Yemeni ring

Antique silver Yemen

ad 3) Yemeni silver chain, with Dutch silver coins from the 19th century 

Antique yemeni silver necklace

ad 3) Antique Yemeni silver necklace

Antique Yemeni silver Koran box

ad 3) Antique Yemeni Koran box

Antique Yemeni silver Koran box

ad 2) Yemeni Koran box, with Jewish silversmith mark

Antique Yemeni silver

ad 7) This Yemeni antique Koran box is normally sitting on a chain with carnelian beads.

Antique Yemeni silver jambiya

ad 4) very rare antique Yemeni children's Jambiya (knife missing) The design of this Yemeni Jambiya is clearly influenced by the design of the Omani khanjar

 

Name: Yemeni Silver

Period: 1850-1948

Origin: Yemen

    References:
  1. British Museum has a Shumlaylat bracelet in the  Ingrams collection collected in the 1930´s in the Hadramawt. British museum on-line collection number 2012,6030.47
  2. British Museum has similar decorated filigree beads (item 3 above) in the Ingrams collection on-line  number 2012,6030.215
  3. The Jews of Yemen: Highlights of the Israel Museum Collection by Esther Muchawsky-schnapper  1994 Jerusalem Hamakor Printing page 98  Useful source to compare Yemenite and Omani silver
  4. Traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia 1981 by John Topham  p 84, p 85
  5. Aden to the Hadhramaut by van der Meulen published by John Murray 1947
  6. Bedouin Jewellery in Saudi Arabia by Heather Colyer Ross p 41 square Koran-box, p 70-71 cylinder Koran-box
  7. Arab & Islamic Silver by Saad Al-Jadir 1981   Stacey International   p 88
  8. Tropenmuseum Amsterdam ad 1 Similar Shumlayat bracelet Inventory TM-5086-4 Date 1900-1948. Diameter 7,9 cm "Zilveren armband versierd met opengewerkte rozetten. De bladeren van deze rozetten zijn gevuld met spiraalrollen van gedraaid zilverdraad. De toepassing van fijn filigreinwerk (shabk), dat hier in spiraalrollen achtbladige rozetten decoreert, is kenmerkend voor het joodse Jemenitische vakmanschap. Dit handwerk werd in Jemen van oudsher gewaardeerd om zijn verfijndheid. Mogelijk is de armband gemaakt door een lid van de beroemde Joods-Jemenitische Busani-familie, die bekend stond om zijn fijne filigrein(Diamanti 2002: 23). Hoewel de joodse gemeenschap relatief klein was, waren er in de hoofdstad Sana’a op een bepaald moment zo’n driehonderd joodse zilversmeden werkzaam (Muchawski-Schnapper 2000:113,121). Dit aantal liep drastisch terug na de emigratie van veel joden naar Israël rond 1949-1950. Werk van joodse zilversmeden werd zowel door moslims als door joodse Jemenieten gewaardeerd: de karakterisering van een zilveren sieraad als joods was en is een kwaliteitskenmerk. Volgens Muchawsk-Schnapper werd dit type armband gedragen door joodse vrouwen tijdens hun bruiloft (2000:140-141). De bruid kreeg ze van haar aanstaande als huwelijksgift ofwel van haar vader als onderdeel van de bruidsschat. Ook werden ze gedragen bij de ceremonie rondom de geboorte van kinderen. Bij deze twee feestelijke gelegenheden droeg de bruid of de kersverse moeder tot wel vijf armbanden aan elke arm. Armbanden werden altijd in paren gedragen. Als een vrouw er zelf onvoldoende bezat, leende zij ze ook wel voor de gelegenheid"
  9. Tropennmuseum Amsterdam ad 2: Similar Cylinder shaped Koran-Box Inventory TM-4313-29a "Amulethouders in Jemen zijn cilindrisch, driehoekig, rechthoekig of vierkant van vorm. Ze werden meestal aan kettingen gedragen. Bij kinderen werden kleine amulethouders ook wel op de kleding vastgespeld of vastgenaaid. In Jemen werden amulethouders gedragen door zowel moslims als Joden. In door moslims gedragen sieraden diende de cilindrische amulethouder als opberghuls voor papiertjes met Koranverzen of Arabische heilwensen: ze worden 'hirz' (Arabisch) genoemd, wat bescherming betekent. Bij Jemenitische joden bestonden de amuletten vaak uit gebeden, (gedeeltes van) Bijbelse teksten of kabbalistische formules, geschreven in het Hebreeuws of het Aramees. In de joodse context heten ze ktab dat verwijst naar het schrift. Ongeacht het geloof werden er ook andere kleinoden, zoals steentjes, een stukje tand of koraal, aan toegevoegd. Soms ook werden stukjes textiel toegevoegd, gedrenkt in parfum, mogelijk om kwade geesten te verjagen. Hoewel we vaak niet weten of een houder ook daadwerkelijk een amulet bevat omdat veel amulethouders aan beide zijden zijn dichtgesoldeerd, is deze houder aan een zijde te openen. Een amulet is in deze houder afwezig. Maar ook zonder inhoud wordt aan amulethouders, of ze nu cilindrisch zoals deze, driehoekig of vierkant zijn, een beschermende waarde toegekend. Bij verkoop van kettingen verwijderden de eigenaren vaak zelf de amuletten uit de houder, om te voorkomen dat er oneervol met de amuletten werd omgegaan"

Yemenite or Southern Omani coffeepot

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Omani or Yemenite coffeepot

 

Rare type of coffee pot is occasionally found in southern Oman, Yemen and on Zanzibar. Height 18 cm Diameter 10 cm weight 350 grams. In the reference Jews of Yemen page 26 / 27 item 2,3 there are copper (coffee) pots that look a bit similar. Similar one but with simpler decoration in the British Museum Ingrams collection that was bought in the Yemeni Hadramawt in the 1930´s.

 

Name: Coffeepot

Period: 1850-1940?

Origin: Possibly  Yemeni or Omani  (item was purchased in Muttrah souq during the early 1980´s ) Very similar to Ottoman and Yemeni coffee-pots. Probably from Yemen or Salalah in southern Oman. Also found in Zanzibar (see below).

    References:
  1. British Museum Harold Ingrams collection BM on-line collection number 2012,6030.129 Height 25 cm, diameter 15 cm weight  593 grams.
  2. In the book Highlights of the Israel Museum collection: The Jews of Yemen
  3. Arab & Islamic Silver by Saad Al-Jadir 1981   Stacey International  page 34 (example of a Turkish coffee-pot)
  4. Tropenmuseum Amsterdam invent AM-17-728 Same design, larger but less ornate. obtained by Congregatie van de Heilige Geest in Zanzibar 30 cm high Diameter 17cm
  5.  The Thesiger Collection  buy Motivate publishing Dubai. Contains 1948 photo of a Saar boy with a similar coffee-pot.

Small Bronze mortar and pestle

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Small bronze mortar and pestle

Scarce small bronze mortar and pestle. Measures: 7 cm high 8 cm diameter. Mortars also played an important role in pounding coffee. In 1836 Wellsted writes in his travels of Arabia (ref 1)  "One of the slaves kept pounding coffee from the time they first arrived. The pestle on these occasions is made to strike the sides and bottom of the mortar in such time and manner as to cause it to resemble the chiming bells, and the slave usually accompanies it with a song"

 

Name: Small bronze mortar and pestle

Period: 19th century?

Origin: Purchased in Oman Nizwa during the early 1980´s

    References:
  1. Travels in Arabia by Wellsted 1837 page 63-64
  2. Tribes in Oman by Carter Page 168
  3. Traditional crafts of Saudi Arabia 1981 by John Topham p 176, 177

19th cent. red glass medicine bottle converted to Rosewater sprinkler with silver ornaments

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Rosewater sprinkler

 

Silversmith work of Oman was highly rated internationally around 1920. This is confirmed by the fact that empty Dimple Whiskey bottles were sent to Oman to be decorated with silver fittings. It is tempting to assume this rosewater sprinkler was also decorated in Oman. However the silver-work in this case is of mediocre quality.

 

 

Name: Rosewater Sprinkler with silver fittings

Period: 1890-1930

Origin: Middle East Maybe Oman or Yemen

References:

  1. A silver legend. The story of the Maria Theresa Thaler by Clara Simple.