This fragment of a bowl is dated to the 12-13th centuries and may be Egyptian or Syrian in origin. It is associated with the development and popularization of underglaze painting in a style often called Raqqa ware. The surviving decoration on the internal base of the bowl is a hare in motion within a dotted and lined border. The hare is outlined in black with large areas of blue and some areas of red-brown. The black pigment is chromite, the blue cobalt and the red-brown is likely a ferric-oxide.

The previous restoration, which included overpaint, fill, and adhesive, was removed from the object following chemical testing and identification. The dark staining prevalent on the left half of the ceramic was tested for solubility using various cleaning agents and poultice materials. Several generally effective approaches did not mobilize the stain, indicating that it may be iron. A chelator was then used to specifically target this stain by binding to the iron. After clearing the object to remove all treatment residues, the two pieces were adhered with a reversible acrylic. The area of loss was then filled and in-painted based on conversations with the curator.

Posted by Kate McEnroe 

ISLAMIC, SALADIN. Ayyubids. Egypt. al-Nasir I Salah al-Din Yusuf (Saladin). AH 564-589 / AD 1169-1193. AE Dirhem (30mm, 13.32 g, 3h). Unlisted (Mayyafariqin[?]) mint. Dated AH 586 (AD 1215/6). Male enthroned facing, holding globus; name and titles of al-Nasir I Salah al-Din Yusuf (Saladin) in outer margin / Name and titles of Abbasid caliph in three lines; partial mint formula and AH in outer margins. Whelan Type III, 258-60; Balog, Ayyubids 182; Album 791.4. Possibly an image of the great Saladin though this is not certain.

“Saladin was the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria and the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty. A Muslim of Kurdish origin, Saladin led the Muslim opposition to the European Crusaders in the Levant. He is well known in the west from his battles and relationship with Richard the Lionheart of England. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and other parts of North Africa

Muhammad Ibn Al-Zayn, Basin (Baptistere de Saint Louis) c. 1300

Possibly the greatest piece of Islamic metalwork, this Mamluk basin, executed in the Ayyubid tradition was signed by Al-Zayn six times for he was so proud of it.  Originally created to be used as a wash basin between meals, the basin eventually ended up as the baptismal font of the French Royalty.  It was likely commissioned by Emir Salar as a gift for the Sultan.  Bronze inlaid with gold and silver (damascene), the basin’s iconography depicts a princely cycle of court life.  A procession of emirs as well as hunting scenes dot the narrative.  Showing Egyptian servants, Mamluk Emirs and Mongols, the scene may depict actual events due to its specificity or could be merely symbolic.  Regardless, the scenes are generally laudatory.  The roundels depict acts of furu siyya or chivalry.  The basin contains blazons, Mamluk coats-of-arms and Fleur de Lys which may have been added later.  A misnomer in more than one way, the Basin was made after St. Louis’ death, but its decoration of unparalleled richness kept it in such high esteem among European courts.

(image courtesy of puc-rio.br)

A few peoples who WERE colonialists in the land of Israel:

1. Romans

2. Arabs

3. Crusaders (with some overlap by the Ayyubids)

4. Mamluks

5. Turks

6. British Empire

Each and every one of those fits the definition of a foreign element that conquers the land for the benefit of a far-away empire. 

Each and every one.

Each one oppressed and persecuted the Jews in it own special way.   So much so that in a few cases, when the new conqueror appeared, Jews assumed the Messiah had come to save them. 

November 25th, 1177 | The Battle of Montgisard

The Ayyubid: a Muslim dynasty centered in Egypt. Founded in 1171 under Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb; - wait, hold on, that sounds like I just hacked in my throat; let me break out Google Translate. Let’s see, apparently he was called “Saladin.” Ahh yes, I’ve heard of this bloke, and I am sure you have as well.

The Ayyubid were set to pretty much bring the sharp end of a spear to the ass of Egypt, Syria, northern Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and – for shits and giggles - the North African coast up to the borders of modern-day Tunisia. In other words: they pretty much owned the entire Middle East and a whole bunch more besides.

But wait, hold on … what are those little blips on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean?

Well … that’s just rude.

You see there was the whole Jerusalem thing: Jerusalem is located on a plateau in the Judean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, and it’s one of the oldest cities in the world. But aside from being drop-dead gorgeous, it’s also considered to be a holy place to the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And religions really don’t like to share pretty much anything with each other, unless it happens to be a spear to the larynx.

And as an ever-shining beacon for exactly what I am talking about here: Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.

Let’s just say “it was desired real-estate,” particularly after the First Crusade in 1099 when Pope Urban dropped four armies onto the region and said “thanks Muslims for keeping it warm for us, but we’ll take over from here.”

So the Ayyubid Dynasty grows, spreads, conquers, and spreads its wings, only to find that it continually butts heads against these guys:

Unlike every other nation that the Ayyubid had to deal with, these “Christian types” just would not permanently fuck the hell off. The 12th Century became a constant “whack-a-mole,” with Crusaders popping up as unwelcome house guests in forts, castles, towns, watering holes, and bars on a constant basis.

The two sides didn’t exactly get along.

Which only makes it worse when the Christians are so cock-sure of their ownership of Jerusalem, that they decide to create a title: the King of Jerusalem, and proceed to henceforth have a long line of rulers for a city that … well … didn’t really belong to them.


Enter into our story one Baldwin IV, son of King Amalric I of Jerusalem, the guy responsible for forging close Byzantine alliances and more than one sword poke at a Muslim face. Amalric didn’t know it yet, but he was going to father three future rulers of Jerusalem, the first of which was Baldwin IV himself.

But hold on, Baldwin hasn’t even gotten onto the throne yet and I’m already writing this guy off. Well that’s because one day – when Baldwin was still very young – he was playing with his mates at a game of “who is the whimpiest among us.” The game is simple: dig your nails into the arms of your pals until they cry.

Except Baldwin didn’t cry; Baldwin didn’t feel a gadamed thing. And if you happen to be a teacher standing-by and witnessed Baldwin bleeding, and yet not flinching, you might think “my god, that boy has balls of steel,” or you might conclude “hmm, something wrong with that fellow.”

And there was indeed something wrong with Baldwin: he had leprosy.

There was no treatment for leprosy back then and the odds of external skin lesions  and eventual  permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes was high. If you had it, you were pretty much screwed. And when Baldwin hit puberty, this shit all kinds of accelerated, which is why pretty much everyone knew that his life would be screwed and his ruler ship would be short.

Amalric died in 1174, and leprosy or not, Baldwin takes to the throne. Except he’s only 13, so a regent took over for a few years and negotiated peace with Saladin. Which didn’t last long, because the minute Baldwin hit 16 he said “screw that!”, packed up some knights and promptly raided everything in sight between Jerusalem and Damascus. 

And this kinda sets the tone for things between Baldwin and Saladin, both of whom start to scheme and plan an invasion of each other’s lands. Saladin plans on taking Jerusalem, while the young King eyes Egypt itself.

So when Philip of Flanders decided to go north to help Raymond in a campaign against the Muslims, Baldwin sent one thousand knights and two thousand foot soldiers in a “ooh, me too!” gang fight. Which stripped Jerusalem of pretty much every much-needed defender.

Saladin rubs his hands together; it was time to bring the hurt.

On November 18, 1177, Saladin crossed into Christian territory with a massive army … no, scratch that … he didn’t muster an army, he mustered over 30,000 templar crushing ball-busters: 26,000 light cavalry, 8,000 camels, and 1,000 elite Mamluks; his personal guard.

And with this tsunami of  steel, he marched up the Palestinian coast. But you can’t march 30,000 horse-riding, skull-stomping soldiers around without creating a little bit of a raucous, and it wasn’t long before the Christian defenders got wind of the almighty mailed fist heading their way. Templar Master Odo de St Amand ordered every knight he could gather to move south to Gaza to fend off the encroaching horde, which made Saladin smile, ‘cos he took to the sea and sailed past them, instead intending to  besiege Ascalon.

This pretty much left Baldwin on his own to do something. So he rolled out of bed – reportedly half dead – strapped some bandages on, and gathered up a few mates. And it was just “a few” as well: 375 knights, 80 Templars, and a few thousand infantry, which sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to Saladin’s chums, young Baldwin was outnumbered almost ten-to-one.

Never-the-less, with balls much bigger than his youthful years would suggest, Baldwin mobilized and headed to Ascalon in order to defend it. He arrived just in the nick of time to see Saladin approaching by sea, but seeing the defenders in place the old wily Sultan yet again mixed things up.

Since the Templars were back at Gaza and King Baldwin and was guarding Ascalon, Saladin realized that … well … this would have to mean that Jerusalem was empty! He virtually jizzed in his pants when this realization hit him. So he threw a few men at the young king in order to keep him busy and raced off to the prize jewel of them all!

But he got cocky; he was so convinced that Baldwin would never, ever be a threat to his mighty biceps of steel, that he let his force get a little too widespread; normal tight reins were loosened, Muslim soldiers started to wander and pillage over a broad area.

What Saladin did not know was that Baldwin had managed to get word to Gaza and had asked for help; the forces there rode to Ascalon, immediately drop-kicked the Muslim blockaders, thus releasing Baldwin and his men. They flew up the coast and headed inland, hell-bent on getting to Jerusalem before Saladin did.

On the 25th of November, 1177, exactly one week after he had crossed over from Egypt, Saladin and his army were crossing a ravine near Montgisard, southeast of Jerusalem, when the Christians came crashing down on them from the north. He had no idea what was coming his way.

His army was stretched out, part of it was trying to pull the baggage train through a muddy area and river, while yet another suddenly realized that their weaponry was on those same wagons. Part of the army went running off to get equipped, while the rest hurried to line up and prepare for the Christian onslaught.

It was a complete clusterfuck.

Meanwhile the Christians were actually shitting bricks: running around like headless chickens or not, the simple fact was that the army in front of them was ten times larger than they had. It’s at this point that Baldwin can see that his guys are beginning to bottle-it, so he dismounted, had the Bishop of Bethlehem raise up the relic of the True Cross, and then prostrated himself before it in prayer. Saladin could only watch on.

Rising up, the Christians erupted into cheers, immediately following Baldwin in a thunderous, ass-twitching, charge. Yup, he had leprosy, he is “half dead,” weak, sick, has his hands bandaged … and he’s leading a charge against 30,000 Muslims.

The Muslims started to break before lance had met skull, and Saladin was forced to watch entire sections of his army just disintegrate around him. He hid himself in the heart of his elite guard, while the rest of the army – desperately trying to hold firm – were run over like pastry dough.

‘Spurring all together, as one man, they [the Templars] made a charge, turning neither to the left nor to the right. Recognizing the battalion in which Saladin commanded many knights, they manfully approached it, immediately penetrated it, incessantly knocked down, scattered, struck and crushed. Saladin was smitten with admiration, seeing his men dispersed everywhere, everywhere turned in flight, everywhere given to the mouth of the sword.’

~ Ralph of Diss

The knights smashed through the center of Saladin’s line, putting the Ayyubids to rout, driving them from the field. It became a complete and utter rout, the Muslims dropping looted booty from the days before, weapons, and the baggage train itself

Saladin’s position was untenable and dissolving faster than Miley Cyrus’ dignity, and – with his Mamluks also now being driven over – he jumped on a racing camel (I’m not kidding) and rode the hell out of dodge.

The Battle of Montgisard was one of the most splendid Frankish victories in the history of the Crusades and Eastern Latin States. Still, it had been a mauling, and approximately 1,100 were killed with a further 750 wounded.

If the humiliation of this defeat had not been enough, the journey home only added to it. As the shattered, retreating Muslim army crossed the Sinai Desert, they were regularly harassed by Bedouins, while others who stopped in villages to beg for food and water were slain or handed over to the Christians as captives.

10% managed to get home. TEN PERCENT.

As for Saladin, ever concerned that his position of power might be upset, he sent messengers ahead to Egypt, mounted on speeding camels, to let everyone know that he was very much still among the living. Upon his return carrier pigeons were sent throughout the land to let the Egyptians know that their sultan had returned.

Years later, he would refer to the battle disdainfully as “so great a disaster,” but while he had failed to capture Jerusalem in 1177, ten years later the result would be very different and the city would eventually be his. Oops, spoiler alert!

Baldwin lasted longer than expected and died in 1185, and for every single year between Montgisard and his passing he warred almost continuously against the Muslims.

More “Who was Stomping on Whose Skull” in History:














Qalamdan (pen-case or pen-box) from Abbasid and Ottoman empires

The bottom picture is the tools of an Ottoman katib (read the caption to know which tool is which). The pen-case has an ink well which holds silk fibers soaked with ink and dried to which drops of water can be added when needed. If you look closely at the pen-rest, there is a raised and grooved part for the reed pen to rest. The groove was designed in a way that the tip of the reed pen could be trimmed at an angle consistently each time. The handles of the scissors were shaped to bear one of the names of Allah “Ya Fattah!” (O He Who opens!).