Name of Object:

Stalactite element (muqarbas)


Setif, Algeria

Holding Museum:

National Museum of Setif

About National Museum of Setif, Setif

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th–6th centuries / AD 11th–12th centuries

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Enamelled moulded ceramic.


Total height 41 cm, total length 21 cm, height of each piece 16 cm, dimension of each side of the pieces 5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Qal’at Bani Hammad, Algeria.


Muqarbas are ornaments with an alveolate structure in the form of stalactites that are used to decorate domes or corbels, notably within Arab–Maghrebi architecture. The ceramic pieces in the shape of parallelepipeds that compose the whole consist of two parts: one plain, and the other formed by four vertical flutes. The cruciform base of each piece and the fluted part are covered by very light-coloured green enamel; traces of yellow appear on some of the sides. The pieces are assembled together as a pyramid, with cement on the plain parts whilst leaving the fluted parts visible.
This type of stalactite was the first vestige that was brought to light in the Muslim West that can be attributed to the Hammadid Calif al-Mansur (r. AH 481–98 / AD 1089–1105).
This muqarbas element was probably used to ornament the upper part of the exterior wall that looked onto the courtyard of the Dar al-Bahr; undoubtably, the decoration was applied.

View Short Description

This muqarbas is an ornamental wall-covering in the form of a four-level parallelepiped made up of a number of ceramic pieces and divided into two parts: one full and the other fluted, with traces of green enamel. The pieces are bound to one another using cement.

How date and origin were established:

Stalactite found in the Dar al-Bahr of the Qal'at Bani Hammad (5th–6th / 11th–12th centuries), according to Kitab al-Istibsar: 'The Banu Hammad built some important constructions in the qal'a…including [the palace] known as Dar al-Bahr, at the centre of which was a vast basin'.

How Object was obtained:

Archaeological repository (De Beylié excavations, 1908).

How provenance was established:

From de Beylié documents, which indicate that these stalactites were recovered from the foot of the wall looking over the southern side of the Dar al-Bahr courtyard.

Selected bibliography:

Beylié, général de, La Kalaa des Beni Hammad, une capitale berbère de l'Afrique du Nord au XIe siècle, Paris, 1909.
Fernandez-Puertas, A., “Muqarnas”, Encyclopédie de l'Islam, Vol. VII, 1993, pp.501–2.
Golvin, L., Recherches archéologiques à la Qal'a des Banû Hammâd, Paris, 1965.
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.

Citation of this web page:

Houria Cherid "Stalactite element (muqarbas)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;dz;Mus01;16;en

Prepared by: Houria CheridHouria Cherid

Titulaire d'un magister en archéologie islamique (1992), enseignante à l'Institut d'archéologie de l'université d'Alger de 1992 à 1999, conservateur du patrimoine archéologique et historique au Musée national des antiquités de 1994 à 2002, puis conservateur en chef à partir de 2002, Houria Cherid est chef du service Labo-photo, département Animation et Documentation au Musée national des antiquités. Elle a publié de nombreux articles dans les Annales du Musée national des antiquités et prépare actuellement un doctorat en archéologie islamique.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Maria Vlotides
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: AL 23


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