Name of Object:



Algiers, Algeria

Holding Museum:

National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts

About National Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts, Algiers

Date of Object:

Hegira 296–467 / AD 909–1074

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Local type of plaster (timchent), sculpted.


Height 77 cm, width 73 cm, depth 41 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Rustamid of Sedrata


Sedrata, Algeria.


Rectangular-shaped niche with a rounded back in the form of a shell, ornamented with fillets that end in roll mouldings. The façade of the bay, which is sculpted in bas-relief, is decorated with festoons, lozenges and circles, whereas the cornerstones are adorned with rosettes framed on either side with stylised leaves.
The bay fits within a double frame: the first formed by a lozenge trellis, the second by a narrow fret band.
The decoration of this panel evokes that sculpted by the Romans and the Byzantines from North Africa on shrines that were made of earth, as well as on architectural pieces, altars, etc., all of which attests to the continuity of the ornamental repertory.
The sculpture was executed with a metal blade, worked on the timchent while it was still soft. According to H. Saladin (see Bibliography) this local type of plaster made from the region's limestone was 'applied to walls made of cobblestones or rubble'.
The niche was built in the corner of a room at a certain height above ground-level. The upper part has undergone restoration work.

View Short Description

Niche with a rounded back and a half-dome whose façade bears naqsh-hadida (sculpted plaster) decoration with simple geometric or floral rosette motifs in timchent plaster. Placed in the corner of a large room, it would have been used as a cupboard and also to help support the ceiling.

How date and origin were established:

After the fall of the Rustamid dynasty, the Ibadids of Tahert escaped southward and founded a new town, Sedrata (296–467 / 909–1074). This fragment comes from a palace in that town. Alternatively, a fragment of frieze that was created for the same palace can be dated to the 5th / 11th century, as, according to Marçais, the kufic characters that feature could be from the '11th century and resemble those of Kairouan'.

How Object was obtained:

From an archaeological repository (excavations by Van Berchem, 1952).

How provenance was established:

Report published in the Comptes rendus de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres in 1952.

Selected bibliography:

Bermúdez Pareja, J., “Crónica arqueológica de la España musulmana”, Al-Andalus, Vol. XX, 1955, pp. 407–52.
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.
Saladin, H., Manuel d'art musulman. L'architecture, Paris, 1907.
Van Berchem, M., “Deux campagnes de fouilles à Sédrata en Algérie”, Comptes rendus de l'Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, 1952, pp.242–6.
Van Berchem, M., “Deux campagnes de fouilles à Sédrata (1951–1952)”, Travaux de l'Institut de recherches sahariennes, Vol. X, 1953, pp.123–38.

Citation of this web page:

Houria Cherid "Niche" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;dz;Mus01;1;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 01


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