late 12th or early 13th century AD
heavy lead brass, cast, engraved and inlaid with silver and copper
12.7 x 14.3cm (mortar); 22.3cm (pestle, length)
The luxurious workmanship suggests that this mortar was used in a court apothecary’s shop for grinding drugs. It bears both lozenge-shaped and teardrop-shaped bosses to steady it during the wearing process of pounding, and it was evidently considered worth repairing when the bottom had been worn through. At the rim and base are bands of benedictory inscription, and, between them, small panels of felines and long-eared or long-horned animals on a ground of engraved spiral scrolls. Below the rim is the name, ‘Uthman Hajjaj – possibly that of the original owner – which is also inlaid,. The lower part of the pestle is faceted and inlaid with silver, with an engraved benedictory inscription at the tip.
F. Maddison & E. Savage-Smith, Science, Tools & Magic, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XII, Part Two, London 1997, cat.196, pp.312–13. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.105, p.97.