Petrographic analysis of ceramics from Murwab, an early Islamic site in Qatar


  • Jose Carvajal Lopez
  • Alexandrine Guerin National Museum of Qatar
  • Myrto Georgakopoulou STARC, The Cyprus Institute


Qatar, Gulf Archaeology, Islamic archaeology, Early Islam, pottery analysis


Murwab is one of the most important early Islamic archaeological villages in the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, and one of the best-known. Excavated since the 1950s, the site has yielded a complete pottery assemblage which allows the site to be dated from the late eighth to the late ninth century AD.
This paper presents an analysis of the ceramics of Murwab. The analysis is undertaken on a selection of 134 pottery sherds of common ware/‘kitchen’ ware without glaze and encompasses a petrographic study and elemental analysis using wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (WDXRF). The results of the petrographic analysis and some preliminary thoughts on the chemical analysis are discussed in the text. Twelve ceramic fabrics have been detected in the assemblage studied. The composition of the fabrics allows some preliminary suggestions about provenance to be drawn: none of the fabrics was locally made in Qatar and most of them seem to come from Mesopotamia, eastern Arabia, and southern Iran.
The technology of the ceramics reveals an approach to the manufacture of common wares that is characteristic of the Upper and Central Gulf (corresponding roughly to the Gulf coast west of the Musandam Peninsula, including Khuzestan and Bushehr in Iran). It is not known when this technological approach started, but it does not seem to be documented in the Bronze Age. 


Ashkanani H. 2014. Interregional interaction and Dilmun power in the Bronze Age: A characterization study of ceramics from Bronze Age sites in Kuwait. PhD thesis, University of South Florida. [Unpublished.]

Ashkanani H. & Kovar B. 2021. Investigating ancient technology and ceramic composition at Al-Khidr site (Failaka Island, Kuwait): Geochemical analyses of Bronze Age pottery by pXRF and thin-section petrographic analyses. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 32.1: 8–20.

Blackman M.J., Méry S. & Wright R. 1989. Production and exchange of ceramics on the Oman peninsula from the perspective of Hili. Journal of Field Archaeology 16: 61–77.

Carvajal López J.C., Giobbe M., Adeyemo E., Georgakopoulou M., Carter R., Sakal F. … Al-Na’īmī F.A. 2019. Production and provenance of Gulf wares unearthed in the Old Doha Rescue Excavations Project. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 49: 51–67.

Frifelt K. 1974. Murwab. Moesgaard. [Unpublished circulated report.]

Georgakopoulou M., Hein A., Müller N. & Kiriatzi E. 2017. Development and calibration of a WDXRF routine applied to provenance studies on archaeological ceramics. X-Ray Spectrometry 46: 186–199.

Guérin A. 1989. Murwab 9e siècle–Al-Uqdah 20e siècle, étude ethnoarchéologique au Qatar. MA thesis, Université Lyon 2, Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée-Jean Pouilloux, Lyon. (2 volumes). [Unpublished.]

Guérin A.1994. Majlis et processus de sédentarisation. Étude ethnoarchéologique au Qatar. Archéologie Islamique 4: 177–197.

Guérin A. (this volume). Settlement patterns in Qatar during the early Islamic period (7th–10th century) – House, mosque, and complex in the North Qatar Region. Proceedings of the Seminar of Arabian Studies 51: 183–200.

Guérin A. & Al-Na’īmī F.A. 2009. Territory and settlement patterns during the Abbasid period (ninth century AD): The village of Murwab (Qatar). Proceedings of the Seminar of Arabian Studies 39: 181–196.

Guérin A. & Al-Na’īmī F.A. 2010. Preliminary pottery study: Murwab horizon in progress, ninth century AD, Qatar. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 40: 17–34.

Hardy-Guilbert Cl. 1984. Fouilles archéologiques à Murwab, Qatar. Pages 169–188 in R. Boucharlat & J-F. Salles (eds), Arabie orientale, Mésopotamie et Iran méridional de l’Âge du Fer au début de la période islamique. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

Hardy-Guilbert Cl. 1991. Dix ans de recherche archéologique sur la période islamique dans le Golfe (1977–1987). Bilans et perspectives. Pages 131–192 in Y. Ragib (ed.), Documents de l’Islam médiéval, Nouvelles perspectives. (Textes arabes et études islamiques, 29). Cairo: Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale.

Kennet D. 2004. Sasanian and Islamic pottery from Ra’s al-Khaimah: Classification, chronology and analysis of trade in the western Indian Ocean. (British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 1248). Oxford: Archaeopress.

Knuth E. 2017. An early Islamic fort and settlement at Murwab. Pages 83–89 in F. Højlund (ed.), Danish archaeological investigations in Qatar 1956–1974. (Jutland Archaeological Society Publications, 97). Aarhus: Jutland Archaeological Society, Moesgaard Museum and Qatar Museums Authority.

Lancaster W. & Lancaster F. 2010. Pottery makers and pottery users in Ras al-Khaimah emirate and Musandam wilayat of Oman, and around Ra’s al- Junayz in the south-east of Ja’alan wilayat, Oman. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 21/2: 199–255.

Mason R.B. 2003. Petrography of pottery from Kirman. Iran 41: 271–278.

Mason R.B. 2004. Shine like the sun. Lustre-painted and associated pottery from the medieval Middle East. (Bibliotheca Iranica). (Islamic Art and Architecture Series, 12). Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publisher.

Mason R.B. & Golombek L. 2003. The petrography of Iranian Safavid ceramics. Journal of Archaeological Science 30: 251–261.

Mason R.B. & Keall E.J. 1991. The Abbasid glazed wares of Siraf and the Basra connection: Petrographic analysis. Iran 29: 51–66.

Méry S. 1991. Origine et production des récipients de terre cuite dans la péninsule d’Oman à l’âge du Bronze. Paléorient 17: 51–78.

Méry S. 1995. Archaeology of the borderlands: 4th millennium BC Mesopotamian pottery at Ra’s al- Hamra RH-5 (Sultanate of Oman). Annali Istituto Universitario Orientale 55: 193–206.

Méry S. 2000. Les céramiques d’Oman et l’Asie moyenne. Une archéologie des échanges à l’âge du Bronze. Paris: CNRS Éditions.

Milton D.I. 1967. Geology of the Arabian Peninsula. Kuwait. US Geological Survey Professional paper 560-F.

Mynors S. 1983. An examination of Mesopotamian ceramics using petrographic and neutron activation analysis. Pages 377–387 in A. Aspinall & S.E. Warren (eds), Proceedings of the 22nd symposium of archaeometry. Bradford: University of Bradford.

Ownby M. 2014. A basic petrographic analysis of ceramics from Kuwait. Pages 288–305 in H. Ashkanani, Interregional interaction and Dilmun power in the Bronze Age: A characterization study of ceramics from Bronze Age sites in Kuwait. PhD thesis, University of South Florida. [Unpublished.]

Priestman S.M.N. 2005. Settlement & ceramics in southern Iran: An analysis of the Sasanian & Islamic periods in the Williamson collection. MA thesis, Department of Archaeology, Durham University. [Unpublished.]

Priestman S.M.N. 2021. Ceramic exchange and the Indian Ocean economy (AD 400–1275). (2 volumes). (British Museum Research Publications, 223). London: The British Museum.

Quinn P.S. 2013. Ceramic petrography. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Stremtan C., Ashkanani H., Tykot R.H. & Puscas M. 2012. Constructing a database for pXRF, XRD, ICP-MS and petrographic analyses of Bronze Age ceramics and raw materials from Failaka Island (Kuwait). Pages 274–279 in R.B. Scott, D. Braekmans, M. Carremans & P. Degryse (eds), Proceedings of the 39th international symposium for archaeometry. Leuven: Centre for Archaeological Sciences, KU Leuven.

Whitbread I.K. 1995: Greek transport amphorae, a petrological and archaeological study. Oxford: Fitch Laboratory Occasional Paper.

Whitbread I.K. 2001. Ceramic petrology, clay geochemistry and ceramic production – from technology to the mind of the potter. Pages 449–459 in D.R. Brothwell & A.M. Pollard (eds), Handbook of archaeological sciences. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Whitehouse D. 1968. Excavations at Siraf. First interim report. Iran 6: 1–22.

Whitehouse D. 1971. Excavations at Siraf. Fourth interim report. Iran 9: 1–17.

Whitehouse D. 1972. Excavations at Siraf. Fifth interim report. Iran 10: 63–88.

Whitehouse D. 2000. Siraf. History, topography and environment. (The British Institute of Persian Studies, Archaeological Monograph Series, 1). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Willis R.P. 1963. Geology of the Arabian Peninsula. Bahrein. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 560-E.

Yacoub S.Y. 2011. Geomorphology of the Mesopotamia plain. Iraqi Bulletin of Geology and Mining. Special Issue 4: 7–32.

Živković J., Power T., Georgakopoulou M. & Carvajal López J.C. 2019. Defining new technological traditions of late Islamic Arabia: A view on Bahlā Ware from al-Ain (UAE) and the lead-barium glaze production. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11: 4697–4709.



How to Cite

Carvajal Lopez, J., Guerin, A., & Georgakopoulou, M. (2022). Petrographic analysis of ceramics from Murwab, an early Islamic site in Qatar. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 51, 55–70. Retrieved from