Name of Object:

Steatite base


Amman, Jordan

Holding Museum:

Jordan Archaeological Museum

About Jordan Archaeological Museum, Amman

Date of Object:

Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century

Museum Inventory Number:

J. 19312

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Incised steatite (soapstone).


Height 20 cm, diameter 15 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Unknown, probably Iraq or Iran.


A steatite (soapstone) base with four protrusions that belonged to a large steatite lamp. The base has been mended. Being that it is soft, steatite lends itself perfectly to carved decoration; this made the stone popular throughout the ages, including the Islamic period.

This hemispherical base is divided horizontally into six wide and narrow bands that are incised with various patterns. The upper band contains two six-petalled rosettes within double concentric circles, while the lower band depicts an arcade with hanging lamps, an architectural style typical of early Islamic buildings and reminiscent of the decoration on the bronze brazier also found at al-Fudayn. The narrow bands are decorated with simple geometrical patterns which include small triangles and intersecting diagonal lines which form indented squares. Other steatite vessels such as bowls and deep dishes with incised geometric patterning were found at the same site.

View Short Description

Steatite (soapstone) base found at al-Fudayn with four protrusions that belonged to a large steatite lamp. It is divided horizontally into six bands that are incised with various patterns; the lower band depicts an arcade in a style typical of early Islamic buildings.

How date and origin were established:

The object was dated to the Umayyad period by stratigraphic context and associated pottery shards.

How Object was obtained:

This object was acquired as a result of an archaeological excavation that took place in 1986 at al-Fudayn, a site 70 km north-east of Amman.

How provenance was established:

It is not known where this object was produced although it is probable it was made in Iraq or Iran.

Selected bibliography:

Bienkowski. P., The Art of Jordan, Glasgow, 1991, pp.91–2, cat. no. 109.

Humbert, J. B., 'El-Fedein-Mafraq' in Contribution française à l'archéologie française jordanienne, Amman, 1989, pp.125–31.

La voie royale: 9000 ans d'art au royaume de Jordanie, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1986, p.270.

Citation of this web page:

Aida Naghawy "Steatite base" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;jo;Mus01;44;en

Prepared by: Aida NaghawyAida Naghawy

Aida Naghawy is an archaeologist and the Director of Jordan Archaeological Museum. She studied archaeology at the University of Jordan where she gained her MA. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1974 as a curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. In 1981 she became inspector of Jerash antiquities and co-ordinator of the Jerash International Rehabilitation project. She was also head of the archaeological awareness section at the Department of Antiquities. Aida is the author of numerous publications on Islamic coins. She has carried out excavation work in Jerash and is the founder of Jerash Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: JO 85


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The Umayyads | The Formation of Islamic Art


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