In the 1930s, a selection of Seljuq-period ceramics inscribed with “signatures” were uncovered near the ancient site of Rayy, Iran. Do these markings follow the well-known habit of the decorator, as evidenced in famous 12th- to 13th-century ceramic workshops of Kashan, Iran, or do they serve another function?

Renata Holod explains how these signatures, together with moulds for ceramics and metal, bone implements for textile-making, and tools for drawing, may provide evidence of a complex material and visual culture of a Seljuq-period crafts quarter — and contribute to a reconstruction of the region’s traditions.

Renata Holod is the College of Women Class of 1963 Professor in the Humanities, History of Art Department, and Curator, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, at the University of Pennsylvania. She has carried out archaeological and architectural fieldwork in Syria, Iran, Morocco, Turkey, Central Asia, Tunisia, and Ukraine. She previously served as the Convenor, Steering Committee Member, and Master Jury Chair of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. She is co-author and co-editor of City in the Desert (1978); Architecture and Community: Building in the Islamic World Today, Aperture, New York, (1983); The Mosque and the Modern World (1997); An Island Through Time: Jerba Studies (2009) and The City in the Islamic World (2008).

Photo: Renata Holod and Penn Museum

What is in a Name: Signature or Keeping Count?

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