Name of Object:

Ornamental plaque (fragment)


Silves, Faro, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Silves Municipal Archaeology Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 4th century / AD 10th century

Museum Inventory Number:

MMAS 00134

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ivory sculpted in relief.


Height 3.8 cm, length 4 cm, depth 0.6 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad of al-Andalus, Caliphate period


Silves Castle.


Fragment of an ornamental plate sculpted on both sides. It is sub-rectangular in shape, beige in colour with a light brown patina. The bottom corner has a round hole which suggests the probable manner of attachment to the structure to which it belonged (it was probably part of the lid of a small chest).
Both sides have detailed sculpted decoration and are bordered by a fine moulding with some incisions on the lower part.
One side shows a golden eagle with its wings open, but standing on the ground, with its head turned towards the left. The other side shows a deer holding in its mouth a plant motif. Both creatures, surrounded by plant decorations and giving a sense of movement towards the centre of the plate, suggest the theme of hunting. This type of thematic decoration is similar to other pieces in ivory, wood and metal from the same period. Given the type of decoration and the figurative elements, this may have been part of a work of sumptuary art and is very similar to those produced in Córdoba (Spain), specifically in the Halaf workshop.
The quality of the decoration on both sides suggests that this fragment would have been part of a structure in which both were clearly visible.

View Short Description

One of the sides of this plaque shows a golden eagle with its wings outstretched, while the other depicts a deer. This decoration is common in other ivory, wood and metal items from the same period. The plaque would have been made in a Córdoban workshop.

How date and origin were established:

The archaeological level in which the piece was found was dated using Carbon-14, which gave a date for AD 985 Caliphate period (ICEN-874 and ICEN-877), which matches the chronology given (10th century). A stylistic analysis also produces comparisons with similar objects dating from the same period.

How Object was obtained:

Housed in the Museum after the excavation that was carried out in the 1990s.

How provenance was established:

Excavation carried out in Silves Castle, directed by Rosa Varela Gomes. Its excavation inventory number is Q3/C5.

Selected bibliography:

Portugal Islâmico: Os últimos Sinais do Mediterrâneo, Lisbon, 1998, p.102.
Gomes, R. V., Palácio Almóada da Alcáçova de Silves, Lisbon, 2001, p.55.
Gomes, R. V., Silves (Xelb), Uma Cidade do Gharb Al-Andalus, Arqueologia e História (Séculos VIII–XIII), Lisbon, 1999.

Citation of this web page:

Maria da Conceição Amaral "Ornamental plaque (fragment)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;pt;Mus01_B;29;en

Prepared by: Maria da Conceição AmaralMaria da Conceição Amaral

Licenciada em História de Arte (Univ. Coimbra) e pós-graduada em Gestão Cultural nas Cidades (INDEG/ISCTE).
Entre 1993-2002, na Comissão Nacional dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, foi responsável pelo comissariado executivo, produção e gestão de grandes exposições e catálogos, e coordenadora de itinerâncias internacionais, realizadas em Portugal e no Estrangeiro. Destacam-se “Memórias Árabo-Islâmicas em Portugal”, “Culturas do Índico”, “Marrocos – Portugal: Portas do Mediterrâneo”. É sócia-gerente da empresa TerraCulta, Lda, onde desenvolve projectos de conceptualização, gestão e produção cultural. É Directora do Museu de Arqueologia de Silves e do Centro de Interpretação do Património Islâmico. É vice-presidente da Associação Multiculti – culturas do Mediterrâneo e integra a equipa portuguesa da Fundação Euromediterrânica Ann Lindh para o diálogo das civilizações.

Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: PT 39


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period

Umayyads of al-Andalus

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Figurative Art | Animal Representation

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