Name of Object:

Kilga, Jar-stand


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th–6th / AD 11th–12th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Marble with carved ornament.


Height 40 cm, width 39.5 cm, length 56.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:





This kilga or jar-stand, was carved from a single block of marble. It has a rectangular open top with legs carved in the form of crouching lions. Around the sides there are relief carvings of lions with an ornamental inscription containing good wishes for the owner. Lions were associated with rulers, suggesting that this object was intended for a palace rather than a religious building. Marble jar-supports of this type are unique to Egypt, used to filter the water of the Nile, thus making it fit to drink. Ibn Ridwan, a physician at the Fatimid court in Cairo in the AH 11th / AD 17th century, wrote: 'The best thing is not to use this water until it has been purified several times … the purified part is placed in a jar; only what seeps through the porosities of the jar will be used'.

View Short Description

These marble kilgas, or jar-stands, are unique to Egypt. The basin of the stand was intended to support a stone or an unglazed terracotta jar. Being porous, the terracotta jars kept the water cool and also acted as a filter: water would seep through the body of the jar into the basin below.

How date and origin were established:

Stylistic analysis, the shape and style of decoration belongs to a group of similar objects that are associated with the Fatimid dynasty. The kufic script can be found in works of other media and architectural inscriptions from the 5th and 6th / 11th and 12th centuries.

How Object was obtained:

Donated by Dr J. M. Rogers in 1988.

How provenance was established:

Historical sources mention the practice of water purification to filter water from the Nile; furthermore, this kilga was found in Egypt.

Selected bibliography:

Institut du Monde Arabe, Tresors fatimide du Caire, exposition presentée a l'Institute du monde Arabe du 28 avril au 30 aout 1998 (Paris, Institut du Monde Arabe, 1998), p.180. (kilgas from the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.)

Phillips, T., Africa: The Art of a Continent, London and New York, 1996, cat. no. 7.54. (kilga in the Manchester City Art Galleries.)

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Kilga, Jar-stand" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus01;7;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 10


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

Water | Water Usage: Drinking and Washing

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Sculptures


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