Islamic Twelfth Century C.E. Glazes from Aktobe, Kazakhstan, and Comparison to Modern Practice in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan

Pamela B. Vandiver, Sean Arnold, Yeraly Akimbek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A preliminary survey of the microstructures and compositions of representative ceramic styles using minimally invasive analytical techniques provides a method of gaining insight into the materials and techniques of ceramic production dating from the eleventh to twelfth centuries C.E. at the archaeological site of Aktobe and from the 14-15th centuries C.E. at Aspara in southeastern Kazakhstan, both walled cities on the Silk Road trading corridor. The case is made for local production based on the argument of technological style or patterning of practices. Seven ceramic sherds representative of glazed earthenware and stoneware traditions were selected for study from excavations of Y. Akimbek and others that are maintained at the Institute of History and Archaeology of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Almaty. Fragments from serving bowls, a cup and bottle were studied by optical microscopy (OM), scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), electron beam microprobe analysis (EPMA) and refiring tests of the bodies and glazes. This initial study aims to characterize the range of physical and chemical variability of ceramics either produced at or imported into Aktobe and Aspara. Most stylistic studies consider these ceramics to have been imported from the Silk Road trade routes that connected many Central Asian cities. The styles include an imitation lusterware bowl made with a ground chromite underglaze pigment, a copper turquoise and cobalt blue and black painted white slipped alkaline-glazed cup, two green lead-glazed copper bowls, an imitation three-color of Chinese sansai bowl, a four-color lead-glazed bowl with underglaze mottled red, gray and black painted slips on a white slipped background and a stoneware bottle. Comparison of the weight ratios of the glaze compositions to possible plant ash raw material sources is presented as a possible way of studying raw material variability; however, analysis is complicated by having two other possible sources that may have supplied fluxing agents, including, salts present in the clays and salts from evaporite deposits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2101-2133
Number of pages33
JournalMRS Advances
Issue number39-40
StatePublished - 2017


  • ceramic
  • electron microprobe
  • scanning electron microscopy (SEM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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