Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Minden Collection of Ancient Glass and Other Artifacts

In 2012 the Museum unveiled the Minden Collection of Ancient Glass and Other Artifacts. The collection consists of fifty-five pieces of original ancient glass, ten strings of ancient beads, eleven pieces of original ancient earthenware and one faience ushabti. The Minden collection is distinctive because of the variety of objects within the collection and the quantity of intact glass vessels that are a part of it. The Museum now boasts one of the largest ancient glass collections in western Canada.

The glass ranges in date from the 6th century BCE to the 16th century CE. The pieces originated mainly from the regions of Syria and Palestine, with other regions such as Egypt and Persia represented as well. The evolution and development of glass working is well documented in this collection, showing a range of forms, designs, and decorations that were used during this 1,500 year period from early Greece, through the Roman period, to the rise of Islam. The collection consists mainly of toilet bottles that would have held perfumes and oils, and tableware such as bottles and cups. Most of the glass can be classified as Roman glass, but a significant portion is Islamic glass, dating from the 7th to 17th CE.

The earthenware extends over a longer range of dates, from the 18th century BCE to the 7th century and includes: four oil lamps, five pottery vessels/fragments, and two figurines. The pieces originate from the same areas as the glass. This part of the collection was researched by a small group of the Museum volunteers, to confirm their provenience as well as giving detailed descriptions of the pieces and their contexts.
Islamic glass. "Wide Islamic Bottle" featured on the bottom shelf in the middle.

Research and writing is close to completion in order to create an official publication of the entire Minden collection. It will include the ancient glass vessels, beads, and the earthenware with overviews of each time period and style. The research that has been done has lead to some fantastic new discoveries. One of the interesting discoveries showed that the vessel known as “Wide Islamic Bottle” was found to be from a late Islamic period, between the 16th and 17th centuries CE, whereas it was originally thought to be from the 7th to 9th centuries CE, almost a thousand years earlier. This was found through stylistic comparison through an Islamic glass catalogue, and more excitingly, through a painting by Muhammad Zaman in the 17th century CE.

Painting by Muhammad Zaman dated Mazandaran, 1086 (1675/76). The servant girl Fitnah impresses Bahram Gur with her strength by carrying an ox on her shoulders (Or.2265, f. 213r)