Qantara Qantara

Annular gourd

  • Title/name : Annular gourd
  • Production place : Andalusia, Spain
  • Discovery place : Camp-Long shipwreck, Agay harbour (France)
  • Date / period : Tenth century  
  • Materials and techniques : Glazed clay ceramics
  • Dimensions : height 25 cm; diameter 20 cm
  • Conservation town : Saint-Raphaël
  • Conservation place : Archaeological museum
  • Inventory number : 75-57-2

The gourd has a recessed rim and two handles attached to the opening. There are traces of yellow glaze in places.

This ceramic object was discovered in the sea at a depth of 50m, near a sunken ship off the coast of Saint-Raphaël. The Camp-Long shipwreck, in Agay harbour, is also known as ‘the shipwreck of jars’, because of the ship's cargo. The objects recovered by the divers (jars, pots, lamps, and dishes) originate from Al-Andalus and date from the end of the first Millennium, i.e. the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031). Three other ships of the same origin and from the same period have also been identified off the coast of Provence[1]. The fourth was located close to the Fraxinet site (Farakhshinīt), near Saint-Tropez. A Muslim community from Andalusia settled there between 880 and 972. To the rear of the site, the mountain village of La Garde-Freinet served as their defence.

The ‘Saracens of Fraxinet’[2], who seem to have come from Pechina near Almería, were known as muwallad (former slaves from Al-Andalus, who spoke Arabic and Latin). We know from the Muqtabas of ibn Hayyan (Spanish Umayyad chronicles) that Nasr ibn Ahmad was their leader in 935 and they lived under the rule of the caliph of Córdoba. Fraxinet was a cultivated area in an occupied region that stretched over the whole of the Massif des Maures. This region, known as Djabal al-Qilâl (mountain of the many peaks), had a coastline with very deep inlets and was surrounded to the rear by marshes and lakes. On Arab maps from the period, it is depicted as an island[3].

In the Latin West, Liutprand (d. 972), the bishop of Cremona, and Flodoard, a monk in Reims, wrote about the Saracens. According to their chronicles, the Saracens of Fraxinet ravaged the towns and cities (Fréjus, Antibes, Nice, Villefranche), pillaged the monasteries, such as the monastery of Saint-Gall, and hindered trade between France and Italy. In 972, the abduction of Majolus, abbot of Cluny, led to their departure from the area. William, Count of Provence, attacked Fraxinet and routed the Saracens.

But, were the Muslims in Provence really just brigands? In The Configuration of the Earth Ibn Hawqal (920–988) wrote this about Djabal al-Qilâl: ‘There is a fine production of agricultural produce, ample irrigation, and land for farming. The Muslims made the area habitable as soon as they settled there… ’. Not everything they did was viewed in a negative light. They have been credited with the introduction of buckwheat, the acclimatization of a breed of goats from North Africa, the cultivation of cork oak, and the art of extracting tar from pine resin for caulking ships. The madrague, a net used for capturing and killing fish, derives its name from the Arabic madraba.

It is not impossible that Fraxinet was the centre of a communal symbiosis. The shipwrecks, which are all trading ships, seem to suggest this was the case. However, it is not known if these ships and their cargoes are connected with the Fraxinet pirates or trade between Andalusia and Provence in the High Middle Ages[4]. Whatever their significance, the Muslims who lived in Provence have certainly left their mark on the region's toponymy: ‘Massif des Maures’ (the Moors' plateau), ‘Vallée de la Maurienne’ (the Moors' valley), and ‘Porte des Sarrasins’ (Saracens' gate). The most interesting of these is the village of Ramatuelle, which derives its name from rahmatū’ llâh (‘the mercy of God’).

NOTE

[1] The second shipwreck, the Batéguier, was discovered in 1973 in Cannes harbour, near the īle Sainte-Marguerite. It contained, among other things, an animal-shaped container with green glaze—it may be an inkstand in the shape of a giraffe—and a cup decorated in green and brown on white glaze, in the caliphate style of Madinat al-Zahra. Its presence confirms the link with Al-Andalus. The third shipwreck was discovered in 1975 in shallow waters off the coast of Marseilles (the rocher de l’Estéou shipwreck).

[2] The Christian chronicles of the period used the term ‘Saracen’ to describe the Muslims in Provence, who arrived in successive waves. The word, which was commonly used in France during the Middle Ages, seems to be derived from Latin and Greek words derived from the Arabic word sharkīyīn (Orientals). The word was originally used to refer to Muslim pirates from Spain, who raided the coast of Provence and Languedoc during the decline of the Carolingian dynasty. It was also used together with the word ‘Moor’, to refer to Muslims with dark skins who came from North Africa. Later, at the time of the Crusades, the word Saracen was used to refer to Muslims in general. The term therefore has no exact ethnic meaning.

[3] This is how it was depicted by the geographers al-Istakhrī and Ibn Hawqal.

[4] The archaeological excavations in the Massif des Maures, particularly on the site of the Garde-Freinet, don't seem to confirm what the chronicles tell us. Underwater archaeology seems instead to support the other theory: commercial exchange. The four Saracen shipwrecks discovered off the coast of Provence correspond with medium-sized ships, the twenty or so duty-free markets that existed in the Near East, or they were used for transporting pilgrims to the Holy Land. The ships' cargoes—ceramics, copper boilers, casseroles, woodworking tools, bronze ingots, and rhyolite grindstones (type of granite) for grain—indicate that they were commercial rather than war ships. The sheath of a cutlass and a double-edged sword were found in the Camp Long shipwreck, but much more significant was its cargo of large jars, which could be used for the long-term storage of foodstuffs and water.

REFERENCE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Joncheray, J-P., « Le navire du Batéguier : une épave du Haut Moyen Age », in Arc.

Lacam, J., Les Sarrasins dans le Haut Moyen Age français, Paris, 1965.

Nantet, B., « Les Sarrasins du massif des Maures », in Qantara, n° 58.

énac, P., Musulmans et Sarrasins dans le sud de la gaule du VIIIe siècle au XIe siècle, Paris, 1980.

Sénac, P., Provence et piraterie sarrasine, Paris, 1982.

Visquis, A., « Premier inventaire du mobilier de l’épave dite des Jarres à Agay », in Cahier d’Archéologie Subaquatique, 2, 1973, p. 157-166.

Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, cat. exp., Paris, 2000, Institut du monde arabe, n° 214, p. 183.

Vingt-Mille Pots sous les Mers, cat. exp., Aix-en-Provence, 1999.



Transversal sheets
Spanish Umayyads (756-1031)
Spanish Umayyads (756-1031)
islam
islam
Glazed ceramics
Glazed ceramics
Ceramics
Ceramics
Transmission of knowledge
Transmission of knowledge
Products traded, slaves
Products traded, slaves
River and maritime trade routes
River and maritime trade routes
Trade
Trade
-->