The Regional Production, Consumption, and Trade of Glazed Ceramics in Medieval Central Asia
AdvisorVandiver, Pamela B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractCentral Asia has long been the connecting bridge facilitating the long-distance trade of goods across Eurasia. While Central Asian communities have served as trading centers, they were also producers of specialty goods and centers of technological innovation themselves. In the 9th-12th c. CE glazed ceramics were introduced and began to be produced in the region. The characterization of ceramic provenance and technology of these first glazed ceramics from southern Kazakhstan helps reveal the physical trade networks in place in northern Central Asia during the Medieval Period, as well as how technologies were transmitted and adapted. A total of 200 ceramics dating from the 9-15th c. CE from eleven sites in southern Kazakhstan were analyzed as part of three studies, which are presented in this dissertation. They detail the compositional analysis of the ceramic pastes, the reconstruction of local lead glazed ceramic production technology, and the compositional and lead isotopic analysis of the lead glazes on the ceramics. The compositional analysis by neutron activation analysis (NAA) of the ceramic pastes characterized the extent of local production and trade in the region during the Early Islamic period. Compositional analysis of the ceramic pastes demonstrates that there are seven distinct compositional groups for the glazed ceramics from the region. Comparison of the glazed ceramic NAA data to a large database of previously analyzed ceramics from across Asia indicates local production of lead-glazed ceramics at one site, Aktobe, and the concurrent presence of imported ceramics from Southwest Asia. A representative group of lead-glazed ceramics excavated from the site of Aktobe were analyzed to reconstruct their production technology. The ceramics were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron microprobe analysis (EMPA) to establish the variability of local artisans’ use of raw materials, glazing methods, and decorative techniques. The results demonstrate that the ceramics were introduced by skilled craftspeople who knew the production technology that was being used in Islamic centers in southwest and Central Asia. Chemical analysis of the glazes by laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and EMPA revealed that there were several distinct glaze types present in the ceramics from southern Kazakhstan. These include transparent high-lead glaze and opaque high-lead glaze, of which tin-opacified glazes, tin- and antimony-opacified glazes, and antimony-opacified glazes were all identified. The occurrence of antimony-opacified glazes, and tin- and antimony-opacified glazes is unattested in this region in the period and indicates that the local craftsmen in southern Kazakhstan are innovating in their production of opaque glazed ceramics using local raw materials. Lead isotope analysis was employed to identify potential sources of lead, and the results indicate that the craftsmen were obtaining lead from at least two different sources for their glazed production. Using a large comparative database and through the application of Euclidean distance, potential ore deposits were identified, including deposits that were active silver mines during the Medieval Period. These ore sources were local and suggest that potters were obtaining lead for glaze production from within larger acquisition networks. One cluster of samples had a distinct isotopic signature that matched a unique deposit in Xinjiang, China, which indicates craftsmen were not strictly using local sources, but also obtaining lead through long-distance trade networks. This systematic analysis of glazed ceramics demonstrates how examining a technology at the microscale can inform us about larger changes in cultural identity and cross-cultural contact. The three studies deepen the understanding of the role glazed ceramics played in northern Central Asia in the Medieval period, as well as demonstrating the strength of integrating chemical, isotopic, and microscopic analyses into a single research program.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Materials Science and Engineering