In the medieval period, glass manufacture had rather complicated technology and developed mainly in cities. Archeological materials excavated on the territory of Bukhara contain significant sets of glass artifacts. From ancient times, our forefathers knew secrets of glass production and transferred them through generations. First evidences for glass production in Central Asia were found in the Chinese chronicle “Beishu” which informs that in 424 high – skilled glass – blowers coming from the domain of Yuichi-chi by means of rock mass melting manufactured colored glass that by properties overcame all things exported from “the west countries”.
Further, the chronicle “Tanshu” informs that in 713 – 755 from Central Asia the glass works of red and green emerald colors were exported to China and highly valued in “under-sky empire”. Central Asia, in particular, the southern lands of Uzbekistan, was not just a center of glass production but first brought this technology to the Chinese empire. Glass works both in the ancient times and in the medieval period were rather expensive. They were chiefly small casting – bottles.
Into wide use, the glass things came just in the epoch of Upper Middle Ages – in the 9th – 12th cc. In this period they had become not just popular but transformed and obtained principally new properties – they became glazed ceramics, i.e. coated by a thin layer of glass. It has a result that ordinary kitchen utensils and tableware became not just bright, sanitary and convenient in use but fine art paintings which were coated by transparent colored glaze above.
Wide use of glass gave a strong impulse both to further development of its production and to extending of fields where the glass was applied, particularly, in architecture – architectural monuments were faced by glazed plates. Thus, if in the Early Middle Ages we identified a limited character of production of small glass works, chiefly for perfume, which were accessible just to rich people, so since the 9th – 10th centuries an assortment of glass works had been extending much. They produced various kitchen utensils and tableware, chessmen, nardis, subjects used in perfume, chemistry, medicine, etc.
In the period of technological peak defined as an epoch of “the Muslim Renaissance”, Bukhara, a capital the Samanid empire, was one of the biggest glass production centers. There was a quarter of glass – blowers – “bottle – makers”. Among numerous subjects found in the quarter of glass blowers there is, for example, a jar with a low spout and thin walls from light – green glass which by its form is very close to modern subjects of this sort. It might serve for storage of dairy products, dried fruit, etc. Here was also found a fine jug from blue glass serving for various liquid products. They might be usual cold water, juices or wine. Besides that, in the medieval society colorful vessels, beautiful by shapes decorated niches in mehmonkhona, in like manner we do it now decorating our buffets.
In this period wide spread was a special medical instrument – “alambik” with a long nozzle having the outlet. Alambiks served for procedures of blood suction, depending on a place where they should have been applied, order and age of a patient the instrument differed in sizes. They were put with a cut on the skin and without it in two ways: with fire and without fire being in some extent a prototype of modern glass suction cups which are used for a cold. In the first case blood suction was done with a small cut where alambik was put on by a wide side of its reservoir. Then through a long empty nozzle was sucked the air and the nozzle was occluded. In the reservoir was formed vacuum, which, first, provided close adherence of alambik onto a body of the patient and, second, gravity blood flow that prevented its clotting. Using such transparent instrument doctors-tabibs could control a process of reservoir filling and if necessary to add another alambik. In archeological excavations were often revealed alambiks buried in clean ash. Probably, it was logic for ash has antiseptic properties and so was a common mean of sterilization.
A fact that in such big urban center of the oasis as Paikend situating 50 km to south – west from Bukhara were revealed numerous reminds of glass, including medical instruments and discovery of a chemist’s shop dated back to the 10th century can prove that Bukhara from the ancient times was one of the biggest cultural centers in Middle East.
Another group of finds is formed by two ceramic glazed vessels dated from the 12th – 13th centuries, which were excavated in Paikend. In its suburbs existed a big quarter of ceramic making shops that was famous for products from original unglazed ceramics, which forms in many cases imitated metal things.
One of the vessels was a cylindrically conical bowl with arrow-shaped stamped ornament decorating vertical walls of the vessel. The vessel was coated by enamel in imitation of celadon vessels in this period exported from China. The bowl ornamented on external surface, obviously, belongs to ceremonial tableware. Another vessel, by a shape reminding a small khurmacha with four symmetrically located on the body conical embossed details and fine under-enamel floral ornamentation. A small empty nozzle indicates to the function of this vessel – baby’s cup. Small vessels of similar forms serving for babies milk-feeding are well known in archeology and dated from the antique epoch. Decorative character of the cup gives evidence for that ceramic masters avoided to manufacture standard and trivial things and tried to make each work an original piece of folk art craft.
Summarizing the said above it will be observed that both glass manufacture and pottery were leading branches of the urban craft in medieval Movarounnahr. They produced both everyday common utensils and used for ceremonial purposes. Splendid bowls and dishes decorated walls in rooms, and colorful, often decorative glass untensils looked fine on shelves in mehmankhona. For the last millennium, in Bukhara, being a capital of the biggest empires in Central Asia, these crafts had reached their top blossoming. This is here, until the early 20th century, a medieval tradition of decorating of mehmankhona’s shelves by beautiful vessels had preserved much more than in any other region of Central Asia.
Author: Djamaliddin Mirzaahmedov