B. Technical characteristics:


B.1. The Body:

is (at best) fine-grained, dense, hard and pure-white frit composition, closely resembling the finer types of Persian frit, and occasional fine-quality Fatimid ware; it is distinct from the coarser, more friable material of "Raqqa" and later Egyptian and Persian products; the coarseness and texture differ from piece to piece, and the larger vessels tend to have coarser walls which is more practical to prevent the glaze crackling.


B.2. Glaze and colourants:

the glaze is usually transparent though occasionally opacified (probably with tin-oxide) when decorated with lustre; it is thin, brilliant, colourless, and has a tendency to crackle; may be stained blue with cobalt, turquoise with copper, purple (more rarely) with manganese. These minerals also act as a flux. There is only one instance of an opacified coloured glaze (turquoise), which is also the only non-lustred piece with an opacified glaze, which suggests that the ingredient used in opacification (tin-oxide) was probably only considered worthwhile in the production of the most expensive pieces. The glazes cling closely to the body and do not run in thick drips down the outer walls, as they do in "Raqqa" ware, and they also rarely pool in the interior (generally only when the glaze is coloured). The glaze covers the exterior to just above the footring which is unglazed as is the base; the incised wares frequently have blue splashes in the form of 4 radiating streaks, but this is not found combined with lustre (which is not however uncommon in Fatimid ware, occasionally in Persian).

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B.3. Vessel Shape:

two shapes predominate:

i) high-footed (conical) bowl c.20 cms in diameter with a flat base, and straight or slightly curved sides that flare directly from foot-ring; this sometimes has a narrow flaring rim;

ii) (less common) dish with sharply articulated wall ending in a flaring rim; incised wares in this shape vary from 30 to 35 cms; smaller versions occur in lustre, with a more angular shape and broader rim. The cutting of the foot is distinctive: the ring flares out to a point two-thirds of the way down, then cuts sharply inwards; inside of the ring it is cut so that the bowl stands on a sharp not a flat edge. This is found on all except the larger pieces which have a broader ring, and the details of turning vary from piece to piece: this is characteristic to the point of being diagnostic; it is not found in Egypt and only rarely in Persia.

The bowls are consistent in size, varying from 19cm-21cm in diameter. Shallow dishes with smooth curved walls and a horizontal rim occur in non-lustred pieces: these anticipate a standard "Raqqa" shape, but are more finely turned. There are only a few examples of vases, jugs with a pinched lip, bowls with vertical walls (some of great size). There seems to be no statistical significance in the relationship of shapes to types of decoration, though the conical bowl seems to have been the potters’ major output.

What was the source of these shapes? Fatimid Egypt provides prototypes for every one (except for the pinched-lip jug which seems to be confined to Syria) though they a have heavier, more rounded appearance since they use coarser clays and frits, and are more careless thrown and turned. The simple flaring bowl is structurally sound and the shape helps to prevent the fragile frit body from cracking or collapsing: this is perhaps why it is also so popular in Persian and Egyptian frit.

A general characteristic of "Tell Minis" wares is the precision with which they have been turned after throwing, and the extreme thinness of the walls, even on the large pieces. It is not uncommon for them to be 3 or 4mm, which gives them a refined feel; this demands considerable expertise of the potters, apart from their skill at decorating, and distinguishes them from Raqqa potters.

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