Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragment of a Turban-Shaped Thumb Rest

Object Name:
9th–11th century
Found/excavated Iraq, Ctesiphon
H. 1 15/16 in. (4.9 cm) Diam. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm) Wt. 0.5 oz. (14.2 g)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1932
Accession Number:
Not on view
This ceramic fragment was excavated in Ctesiphon, the Sasanian metropolis and administrative capital conquered by Arab Muslim armies in 637. The city was known in Arabic as al-Mada’in, or "the cities", for its extended area. Arab historians indulge in describing al-Mada’in/Ctesiphon’s grand monuments, which obsessed Muslim rulers and may have acquired a symbolic meaning related to its imperial past. This was the case of the Taq-i Kisra, an impressively-sized ivan (a vaulted hall with one side open) partially dismantled to reuse its bricks in caliphal buildings in the new capital Baghdad.
Finds like this fragment, which was excavated at a site named Selman Pak II, attest to the continued occupation of Ctesiphon’s urban area in the early Islamic period. The thumb rest would have originally decorated the uppermost handle of a ewer. While similar features could also have an animal shape, the creativity with turban-like shapes reached a peak in unglazed wares of the 9th to 11th centuries.
Excavated at Selman Pak II in Ctesiphon, Iraq, by the Joint Expedition of the Staatlichen Museen of Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931–32. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds and accessioned, 1932

Related Objects

Bowl Emulating Chinese Stoneware

Date: 9th century Medium: Earthenware; painted in blue on opaque white glaze Accession: 63.159.4 On view in:Gallery 451

Dish with Interlace Designs

Date: 9th century Medium: Earthenware; molded and glazed Accession: 53.110 On view in:Gallery 451

Large Storage Jar

Date: 8th century Medium: Earthenware; applied and incised decoration, unglazed Accession: 1998.330 On view in:Gallery 451

Imported Luster Bowl

Date: 10th century Medium: Earthenware; luster-painted on an opaque white glaze Accession: 40.170.27 On view in:Gallery 453

Bowl depicting a Man holding a Cup and a Flowering Branch

Date: 10th century Medium: Earthenware; luster-painted on opaque white glaze Accession: 1977.126 On view in:Gallery 451