How were the glazed ceramics of the Alcazaba of Almería colored?

How were the glazed ceramics of the Alcazaba of Almería colored?

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The Alcazaba of Almería It is one of the most important Andalusian monumental and archaeological sites in the Iberian Peninsula, being one of the largest citadels built by the Arabs in Spain.

Its construction was started, on previous emiral remains, in the year 955 by Abderramán III, being enlarged by Jayrān, Taifa king of Almería, in the 11th century.

Its defensive walls are an expression of the economic and strategic relevance of the city of Almería during the Middle Ages. In the course of archaeological excavations in this monumental area, specifically, in the palatine area called the second enclosure, several remains of glazed pottery were found.

Now researchers from the National Center for Accelerators, the University of Seville and the Complutense University of Madrid have analyzed them.

These remains are dated between the 10th and 15th centuries and correspond to small fragments on which different decorative techniques can be identified that represent some of the most characteristic Islamic types and those of the early modern period from the 10th to the 15th century, including examples from the Taifa, Almohad and Nasrid periods and imports from the Christian area.

The interest of study of ceramic glazes of the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula resides in the fact that the information obtained on the pastes, enamel, raw materials, manufacturing methods, firing temperatures, technological skills achieved, etc., allows classifying, dating and even determine the origin of ceramic objects.

The objective of this work has been to characterize by non-destructive analysis techniques the set of these different styles of ceramics located in the Alcazaba, to expand the reference framework and the knowledge about Islamic enamel and metallic luster ceramics from al-Ándalus.

Are the first archeometric studies made in the ceramics of this citadel or fortified enclosure.

The combination of nuclear non-destructive ion beam analytical techniques carried out on these ceramics, which constitute a representative group of some of the most typical decorative procedures used in al-Andalus, has allowed a debate on various aspects of production technology, such as the use of raw materials and the degradation processes they undergo.

Origin of the colors of the Alcazaba of Almería

The analysis performed on glazes allowed to conclude that the main flux material used was lead oxide, also characterized by high values ​​of sodium, potassium and magnesium, although these values ​​change significantly from one ceramic sample to another.

In particular, it has been found that green glazes are related to copper and iron, but in different proportions depending on the color of the enamel, while blue enamel is characterized by cobalt oxide, although iron, nickel, copper and manganese are also related to this pigment.

Therefore, the minerals used as raw material for blue pigment They could be the absolita, the skutterudita and the trianita.

Two elements of this set of samples have a metallic appearance, or luster, almost completely lost.

The gloss of the luster is obtained by means of copper nanoparticles in one of the samples, while in the other it is due to the combination of copper and silver nanoparticles. The RBS results indicate that lead is practically lost on the surface while it progressively increases inside.

Another of the conclusions obtained is that a thin line of manganese black could have been used to design the pattern to be filled with luster, but no other references have been found on this procedure.

Finally, one of the black and white Nasrid samples appears to be an imported piece and it does not seem to come from Almería since it presents many differences with respect to the rest of the samples analyzed, not only in the pastes but also in the pigments of the enamels.

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