This extraordinary group of rare pottery fragments gives an idea of just how impressive the pottery of Fatimid and Mamluk Egypt and Syria could be.
The decoration of the fragment to the far left of the photograph above, which is decorated in sgraffito with the confident form of the legs of a lion are paralleled on another small fragment, dated to the 13-14th century, which was excavated at Hama (8A111, P.J.Riis and Vagn Poulsen, Hama. Les verreries et poteries médievales, Copenhagen, 1957, fig.808, p. 233). The incised fragment at the centre of the photograph and the yellow fragment with the quatrefoil design at the bottom right hand corner are examples of Fatimid monochrome wares - a type that Watson terms the "hidden treasures" of Islamic pottery due to the tiny number of surviving examples (Oliver Watson, Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004, p. 285). Another similar fragment to the former with similar elegant scrolls issuing fleshy leaves, but under a lavender rather than a green glaze is in the Islamic Museum in Cairo (La Céramique Égyptienne de l'Époque Musulmane, Egypt, 1922, pl.75). The complicated interlace of the yellow glazed fragment is paralleled in another example in the Cairo Museum (op.cit., pl.69). Mamluk fragments decorated with scrolls, though not as fine as those illustrated here (in the fragment at the bottom of the image) are also in Cairo (op.cit., pl.68). It is a shame that despite their relative heavy potting, so few examples exist intact today - even a small fragment is very powerful. The fragment in the upper right hand corner, of a group known as Fayyum ware. Few epigraphic examples of this type are known (for a long discussion on the type see Helen Philon, Early Islamic ceramics, Athens, 1980, pp.35-61).