Name of Object:

Pilgrim bottle fragment


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

British Museum

About British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th–7th century / AD 12th–13th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Unglazed, moulded earthenware.


Length 21 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Aleppo, Syria.


An unglazed fragment from the flat side of a pilgrim bottle, with part of the depiction of an archer on horseback moulded in low relief. An idea of the original shape can be obtained from a number of pilgrim bottles that survive intact. The bottle would have been shaped like a drum with a spout attached at the top, circular in shape with two flat sides and two handles on the rounded edge. Due to their similarity with vessels brought back from the Holy Land by Western pilgrims these vessels are usually termed 'pilgrim bottles'. Unglazed pottery was used for storing water as the porous clay was especially efficient at keeping water cool, particularly important on long journeys.

View Short Description

A fragment from an unglazed earthenware pilgrim bottle showing part of the depiction of an archer on horseback. These bottles, used for carrying water, were termed pilgrim bottles due to their similarity to vessels brought back from the Holy Land by Western pilgrims.

How date and origin were established:

Comparable fragments have been found in excavations in Syria that can be dated to this period.

How Object was obtained:

Acquired by the British Museum in 1902.

How provenance was established:

There were workshops for these unglazed bottles at a number of locations in Syria. Moulds and kilns have been found in Damascus and Hama. This fragment was found at a factory site in Aleppo.

Selected bibliography:

L'Orient de Saladin au temps des Ayyoubides, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, cat no.131-134, p.152-3 (for similar bottles in the National Museum, Damascus).

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Pilgrim bottle fragment" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;uk;Mus01;16;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 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: UK1 19


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