Moshkin Tepe is situated approximately 1.5 km southeast of the city of Parandak, Iran, and was a major pottery production site during the Seljuq period. Excavations undertaken in 2008 by Iranian archaeological teams had revealed an unprecedent amount of workshop materials- nearly 14000 ceramic sherds, in addition to remnants of kiln walls, kiln furniture, production wasters and samples of raw materials. The majority of excavated materials were subsequently reburied in the site due to the lack financial support required to record and preserve the findings.
The purpose of the current project was to conduct fieldwork at Moshkin Tepe, to collect ceramic sherds and technical materials for laboratory analyses, and to study the processes and technologies of production. Upon official permission from the Institute of Cultural Heritage, fieldwork visits were conducted during spring 2018 and three pottery workshop areas were distinguished (Fig. 1). The majority of pottery produced at the site are stonepaste ceramics (i.e. body fabrics composed of approximately ten parts crushed quartz, one part crushed glass and one part white clay), although clay-based ceramics were also found. The bodies of both stonepaste and clay-based ceramics were covered by turquoise, blue or purple glazes. Samples of ceramic sherds as well as technical materials (e.g. kiln rods, kiln walls, raw materials) were collected and sent to the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Oxford, for chemical and physical examination.
Figure 1: Moshkin Tepe archaeological site; (1): the castle, (2): residential areas, (3), (4), (5): pottery production workshop areas, (6): cemetery.
Samples of four ceramic sherds, four kiln rods and ten wasters have been thus far analysed using a Scanning Electron Microscope with Energy Dispersive Examination (SEM-EDS). The results of chemical analyses showed that the glazes were of the alkali composition and the turquoise, blue and purple glazes were coloured respectively using copper, cobalt and manganese ions.
Figure 2: Members of research team at Moshkin Tepe (from left to right: Hossein Sedighian, Moujan Matin, Ali Nemati).
The scientific study of findings from Moshkin Tepe provides a unique opportunity to reproduce the processes of production of stonepaste materials. The outcomes of the present research will help transform our views regarding the beginnings, development, and production processes of stonepaste ceramics during the medieval Islamic period. This project would not have been possible without the financial support of the Max van Berchem Foundation and their funding of this project is gratefully appreciated.
Wolfson College, University of Oxford