Name of Object:



Silves, Faro, Portugal

Holding Museum:

Silves Municipal Archaeology Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 2nd–3rd century / AD 8th–9th century

Museum Inventory Number:

MMAS 00273

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ceramic modelled on a wheel, with a star-shaped decoration.


Hegira 2nd–3rd century / AD 8th–9th century

Period / Dynasty:



Courtyard adjacent to the cistern (now Silves Municipal Archaeology Museum), Silves.


An open bowl with a circular body on a flat base. The rim is semi-circular in cross-section, marked and slightly inverted.
The ceramic is made from very light-coloured almost white paste, with a brown, almost sepia decoration. The surfaces have slips in the same colour as the paste.
The decoration is centred on the inside of the object with a star-shaped or flower motif which spreads out from a broad circle decorated with a geometric pattern inside. Small semi-circles with a dot in the centre form a border around this circle, interspersed with groups of three lines which radiate outwards and are repeated seventeen times.
The rim of the bowl was also decorated with stripes of the same colour, in seven sets of small dashes producing a very subtle effect.
This type of decoration is common on the inside of similar pieces, but also on the outer walls of small pots. A very similar decoration has been observed on ceramics from Vilamoura (Loulé, Algarve, Portugal) and on ceramics unearthed in the Castle at Silves.
In the archaeological excavations carried out at Silves, this type of ornamentation was not found in objects from archaeological levels dating after the AH 4th / AD 10th century.
This may be a locally produced object.

View Short Description

The elegance of the geometric motif on the inside of this bowl is particularly noteworthy, depicting a star or flower in the centre radiating from a circle containing a geometric bar motif. The whole is reminiscent of traditional formulas from the region, characteristic of indigenous art.

How date and origin were established:

From its archaeological, stratigraphic and typological context. The date attributed (2nd–3rd / 8th–9th century) is disputed by Cláudio Torres, of the Campo Arqueológico de Mértola, who believes that it is probably a later piece, in comparison with others coming from the region of Gharb al-Andalus.

How Object was obtained:

Housed in the Museum after the excavation that was carried out in the 1980s.

How provenance was established:

An excavation carried out in the courtyard next to the cistern in Silves, directed by Mário and Rosa Varela Gomes. Inventory number Q 41/C3-silo 1.

Selected bibliography:

Portugal Islâmico: Os últimos Sinais do Mediterrâneo, exhibition catalogue, Lisbon, 1998, p.162–3.
Gomes, R. V., Palácio Almóada da Alcáçova de Silves, Lisbon, 2001, p.54.
Gomes, R. V., Silves (Xelb), Uma Cidade do Gharb Al-Andalus, Arqueologia e História (Séculos VIII–XIII), Lisbon, 1999.
Gomes, R. V., “Silves (Xelb): Uma Cidade do Gharb Al-Andalus: A Alcáçova”, Cadernos do Instituto Portuguès de Arqueologia, Lisbon, 2004.

Citation of this web page:

Maria da Conceição Amaral "Bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;pt;Mus01_B;31;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 41


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