Fragment of a glass floor tile with a plaster base
National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 218–27 / AD 833–42
Moulded glass; plaster.
Height 20 cm, diameter 14 cm
Raqqa region, Syria.
A fragment of a glass floor tile that was found amongst a group of glass tiles in the southern wing of the palace, in the formal reception hall no. 9, which was paved with glass tiles. The floor of the hall was first covered with a thick layer of plaster and then green glass tiles were placed on top. The bottom surface of the glass tiles is toothed to allow the glass to be embedded into the plaster. The upper face of the glass tiles is smooth but also wavy to prevent those walking on it from slipping.
The Abbasid period is distinguished by prosperity and extravagance. Historical sources contain references to luxurious palaces, the floors of which were paved with glass tiles. Palace B, located in the Raqqa region, extending to the east of the Euphrates River and bordered by its tributary the Balikh River, is one such palace.
The use of glass floor tiles, reminiscent of the glass floor in King Solomon's legendary meeting with Queen Sheba as described in the Holy Qur'an, is here found at the 'Abbasid palaces of Raqqa.
Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah (r. AH 218–27 / AD 833–42)
An inscription found in the palace refers to the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim and scholars date the palace to around 220 / 835.
The tile fragment was found during archaeological excavations undertaken during the 1950s by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities under the direction of Nasib Salibi.
The tile fragment was found in Palace B and was probably produced in situ.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.161.
Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001.
Daiber, V., and Becker, A., Raqqa III, Mainz, 2004, p.100; fig. 17.
Kohlmeyer, K. (ed), Land des Baal, Mainz, 1982.
Mona al-Moadin "Fragment of a glass floor tile with a plaster base" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;9;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 15
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Al-Raqqa: Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s Capital in Syria
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