Typology of incense-burners of the Islamic period


  • Sterenn Le Maguer


This paper is the result of research undertaken for an MA dissertation on the typology of incense-burners and the frankincense trade in the Islamic period, i.e. from the seventh century onwards. This typology developed from a study of the incense-burners found in al-Sh͟iḥr (Yemen), a port of trade whose wealth came not only from fishing, but also from trade in frankincense. These incense-burners were first published by Claire Hardy-Guilbert (2005), and the final typology was established and presented by Hardy-Guilbert and Le Maguer (2010). In order to understand the frankincense trade, the typology was extended to incense-burners found in the Arabian Peninsula and nearby regions as far as Egypt, Bilād al-Sh͟ām, Iraq, and south-western coastal Iran. Traders from the Arabian Peninsula participated in maritime and overland trade in the Islamic period. Frankincense is still a wealth-generating product and a source of income in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, especially in the regions of Ḥaḍlramawl (Yemen) and Dhofar (Oman). A typology of clay and soft-stone incense-burners dating from the Islamic period is presented. An incense-burner' is defined as any container used for burning aromatic resins in a secular context. These objects not only provide evidence of the use of incense, but also of its trade both by land and sea routes. Indeed, the distribution of soft-stone incense-burners is determined by associated mines and workshops and their relation to trade routes. Pottery incense-burners are mainly made locally and their patterns and shapes are generally linked to specific areas. The different types are determined by their material (pottery or soft stone), shape, and decoration, as well as defined chronologically.





How to Cite

Le Maguer, S. (2011). Typology of incense-burners of the Islamic period. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 41, 173–187. Retrieved from http://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/PSAS/article/view/1685