Archaeometallurgical investigation of metal wares from the medieval Iranian world (10th-15th centuries): The ISLAMETAL project

Publication date: July 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 95
Author(s): Vana Orfanou, Annabelle Collinet, Ziad El Morr, David Bourgarit
The ISLAMETAL project (2013–2017) was jointly conducted by the Département des Arts de l’Islam (DAI), Musée du Louvre, and the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (C2RMF) and kindly supported by the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute (RCHI). The project deals with the detailed technological investigation of copper-based metal wares (10th to late 15th centuries CE) from the Iranian world at the Louvre Islamic Art collection, comprising mostly household and domestic objects such as candlesticks, lamps, ewers, plates, and bowls. Amongst the collection characteristic qualities of production and decoration can be discerned. High status objects were decorated with sophisticated patterns including exquisite chasing, engraving, champlevé, and especially copper, silver and gold inlays. Results of the technological investigation of some 169 objects (particle induced X-ray emission, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy, digital microscopy, X-radiography) showed a range of distinct alloy types employed and a correlation between artefact typology, fabrication technique, status and alloys. Decoration techniques showed a clear change spanning the 10th and 15th centuries with the notable introduction of precious metal inlays during the 12th century and new inlaying techniques before the mid-13th century. Lost-wax casting was the preferred manufacturing method even for mass produced objects where sand casting would seem a more suitable choice. Specific production centres in the region of Khorasan, such as that of Herat and Ghazna, were possible to be technologically identified. Detailed investigation of this comprehensive corpus provided for the first time key technical references for further comparison, particularly with neighbouring Near Eastern workshops.