This Web-Based Teaching Course on Islamic Ceramics was originally conceived primarily as an educational resource for students on the Islamic Art and Archaeology undergraduate and graduate courses at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford. To this end, The Barakat Trust generously funded the project, which began in 1997. However, it is now hoped that this will provide an invaluable worldwide reference point for students, potters, or anyone who is interested in the history of Islamic Ceramics.

The following programme is essentially divided into two parts:

Part 1 is concerned with Technology and is itself subdivided into two sections: the first will take you step-by-step through the processes involved in making a pottery vessel, illustrated by still and digitised-video images of the relevant processes, and the second discusses modern methods (scientific, archaeological and ethnological) for the study of ceramics. While the examples and case-studies in these two Technological sections are used in reference to Islamic Ceramics, most of the information here is relevant for a general knowledge of ceramics, and is not specific to Islamic Ceramics.

Part 2 is divided into 10 main sections, which each deal comprehensively with the most important phases in the history of Islamic Ceramics. These sections are listed chronologically according to the historical periods with which these phases are associated. Each section begins with a brief outline of the historical context, but focuses primarily on the main technical or stylistic innovations which took place at each production centre. Each section is likewise accompanied with a bibliography which aims to be as up-to-date as possible. These sections are intended to be colour-coded according to the main characteristics of the surviving pottery.

In addition to these 10 main sections, there are links to smaller sections: these are Online Lectures, and the texts of several key articles which relate to aspects of the history of Islamic Ceramics.

Lastly, there is a Glossary, a Bibliography which combines all the bibliographies of the individual sections, and suggestions for Study Guides (these are included for the benefit of students on the Oxford Islamic Art and Archaeology courses).

The whole programme is illustrated mainly from the collections of the Department of Eastern Art, of the Ashmolean Museum, which reserves the copyright on all its images. The use of other images has been generously granted by various individuals, who likewise reserve the copyright on their images. It also includes digitised clips of a Teaching Video which was produced in tandem with this project, 'Making Lustre Pottery with Alan Caiger-Smith'.


top of the page   top of the page


How to use this programme:


The main focus point for this Teaching Course is the Main Menu. This is the Contents Page for the whole programme which lists the titles of each constituent section. Each individual section has its own menu page, at the bottom of which will be a link to bring you back to the Main Menu. It is assumed that users of this course will work through it section by section over a period of time and will therefore be approaching it in a linear manner (like working through the chapters of a book). There are points in the individual sections where links will take you to other relevant or comparative sections (for example, to definitions of terms in the Glossary); however if you wish to navigate through various sections of this programme, this is probably best done by returning to the Main Menu.

Links appear as text which is highlighted in a different colour from the rest of the text on a page. In most cases, a line will appear below the highlighted text as the mouse passes over it, to indicate its status as a link. For example, this link is highlighted but doesn't go anywhere!

At some points - especially in the Technology Sections - you will encounter buttons, as follows, which will take you to 'pop-up' pages - these may give you more historical detail, be extended glossary entries, or the index page for an Online Lecture. When you see them, just click on these buttons:

Normally you would click here to proceed to this pop-up link

Illustrations are represented in this programme by small 'thumbnails'. These are usually also links which will take you to a larger version of that image with a descriptive caption. In most cases, these should also have a picture reference (or give the name of the photographer). From the Main Menu you can also proceed to a main index page of all the thumbnails used in this programme, and if you like you can navigate from image to image without reading the text.

Normally you would click here to proceed to this image link

When a video clip has been incorporated - to illustrate an aspect of the processes involved in pottery production - this is indicated by the following icon of a video camera: click it to access the clip.

Normally you would click here to proceed to this video link

At the bottom of each page of this programme there should be links to the page before, the page after, and the contents page of that section. Remember if you get stuck that you can always use the backward/forward arrows in the toolbar of your browser, or return to the Main Menu to continue to another section.


top of the page   top of the page


You will find that there are still many gaps in the this programme: while much effort has been made to ensure that it was as complete as possible before going 'live', there has inevitably been more work to do than time has allowed. The academic sections themselves should be mostly complete, though there are areas where you will encounter an 'Under Construction' notice. Three of the academic sections have yet to be researched and written: where the text is greyed-out, this means there is something to come, but it is not yet ready. One area which is at present still quite sparsely populated is the illustrations: selecting the appropriate images for photography, the photography itself, then digitization and subsequent editing is a big task, especially for a one-woman band! Lastly, there has not yet been time to deal with the video clips which will ultimately be incorporated into this site. So, please be patient with us! Filling in the gaps in this programme will be a rolling project over the coming months, and we hope you will keep coming back and finding something new!


Technical Notes:

This programme was written on a PC, using the HTML-authoring software Microsoft Front Page (version 2.0), and was maximized for browser use in Internet Explorer (version 5). Nearly every page of this website features some JavaScript to a greater or lesser extent, which has been manually added. This means that the site should best be used on a browser that supports JavaScript. The effect of this JavaScript is that no hyperlink will appear with the standard distinguishing feature of being underlined, and that hyperlinks will sometimes change colour or become underlined when the mouse passes over them: this will not happen in a browser that does not support JavaScript, nor will it happen on an Apple Macintosh. Though this will effect the aesthetic of this site's overall design, it should not detract from ease of use or navigability. If you experience consistent problems with using this site on your browser, try downloading an alternative browser, but if the problems persist please contact us (email address at the bottom of this page) and we will try to identify and rectify the problems.

The images which feature in this programme have been edited using a variety of software packages: Adobe Photoshop 4.0, Microsoft Image Composer 1.0, and Paint Shop Pro 4. Many of the photographs were taken by the Photographic Department of the Ashmolean Museum, and then scanned, or were taken on a digital camera. All images remain the property of the Ashmolean Museum, unless otherwise stated, in which case they remain the property of whoever is identified as allowing the reproduction of that image. To read the Ashmolean Museum's copyright policy, please go to:


If you have any comments (mistakes, accuracy of content, you've really liked this course or learned something interesting), please feel free to email us on: