Sphero–conical vessel, 9th–10th century
Found at Iran, Nishapur, Sabz Pushan
Earthenware; incised, unglazed; H. 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm), Diam. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1940 (40.170.232)
This distinctive type of vessel has been excavated not only in Iran but in many other Islamic countries and its function has sparked many theories. Examples are most commonly sphero-conical in shape, which allows the tiny opening to incline upward even when the vessel is lying on its side. Another common feature is a groove below the lip, presumably for suspension. Although occasional pieces are made of glazed ceramic, stone, and glass, the vast majority are thick-walled and made of hard-fired, dense, unglazed earthenware. The most widely accepted theory is that they are vessels for storing, dispensing, and perhaps transporting liquids of various kinds. Several have inscriptions related to drinking; some scholars have suggested these were the vessels for containing beer described in poetry.