Nabatean, or Nabataean, pottery and coroplastic production, recovered since the very first organised archaeological excavations of Petra in Jordan, attest the great skills of Nabatean craftsmen. Since the 1st century BC, the Nabateans developed a specific and characteristic style in their pottery production, without any reference to the Hellenistic artistic tradition. Nabatean pottery is characterised by bright red terracotta, fine modelling, painted decoration and displays a smooth and matte finishing. Many different shapes have been recovered, including huge jars, pots, flacons for storage of perfumes and ointments and bowls. Open bowls, such as this beautiful example, were the most painted forms. The hand-painted decoration usually includes dark brown and light red motifs of flowers, leafs and palmettes. Another interesting and most recognisable aspect of Nabatean terracotta wares is the thinness of the vessels’ walls, known as egg-shell vessels. Such vessels, featuring a thickness of 1-3 mm and a metallic hardness, were mostly shallow open bowls, extremely difficult to be potted on the potter’s wheel. With the Roman conquest of the area around 150 AD, Nabatean pottery production started losing its thinness and polychrome decoration, becoming more crude and simple.
Nabataean Terracotta Bowl with Birds
A fine Nabataean terracotta bowl featuring a flat base and a flaring, slightly convex body. The dish displays an orange colour, a characteristic of Nabataean pottery, which is caused by the high level of iron in the clay. The inside of the bowl is decorated with floral and zoomorphic motifs painted in dark pigmentation. A band of stylised leaves run around the shoulder and across the centre, dividing the bowl into two registers. These display a specular decoration comprising of a stylised bird and foliage. The reverse remains unadorned and displays spiral marks to the base, showing how the clay was moulded during the production process.
The bowl is accompanied by a copy of the Israel export licence.
Provenance: Ex SM collection, Israel, acquired 1970-1999
Condition: Repairs to one side of the bowl.