“Iranian” Decorative Patterns on Enigmatic Central Asian Ceramics
Keywords:Pre-Islamic ceramic, Fashion Ware, Sasanian art, Afghanistan, pearl roundel decorative pattern
An almost unknown variety of ceramics, archaeologically unattested, embellished with a plethora of painted motifs, has appeared more often on the antiquities market over the last twenty years. While precise studies have not been made, many pieces have entered private collections. These ceramics include many typologies: jars, dishes, and human and animal shaped vases finely painted with dark brown decoration over a yellow ochre or red background. The so-called “pearl roundel” motif of animals in roundels surrounded by “pearls”, and continuous horizontal bands of “pearls” are favorite decorative motifs. Very similar ceramics were noted several years ago during investigations in Afghanistan but the political situation did not allow further research. Scholars continue to debate the dating of these ceramics; dates from the sixth to the thirteenth century have been suggested. The frequent use of decorative motifs such as “pearls” and “pearl roundels” suggest a more precise chronology and confirm Central Asia as the most probable place of origin. Any attribution to Sasanian or Sogdian art should be reconsidered in the light of recent investigations and findings. Moreover, “pearled roundels” with a wild boar head in profile do not necessarily point to the pre-Islamic period.