Ming dated imperial blue and white porcelain and celadon finds from the excavation in Ras al-Khaimah, UAE
al-Khaimah is located in the furthest northern area in the UAE and the
west of Oman. Across the Arabian Gulf, it is just beside the south of
the Hormuz Island and as a peninsula it is pointed out to the Hormuz
Strait. In Arabic accounts, such as described by Ibn Battuta,al-Mataf
(in Ras al-Khaimah) as a port city played a crucial role in the Pearl
fishing industries and maritime trade in the ancient period. From the
Portuguese to the British invasions since the 15th century, it had all
well demonstrated that al-Mataf and Ras al-Khaimah were a very strategic
and geographic important place in the Indian Ocean.
on archaeological evidence, al-Mataf became an important port city of
maritime trade in the Arabian Gulf in the erafrom the Song to Yuan and
Ming dynasties. The changing locations of trading centers in Ras
al-Khaimah were mainly because of the shifts of littoral lines.From 1977
to 2015, large quantities of Chinese trade ceramics were yielded from
the local sites, including Kush, al-Mataf and so forth. A three-party
collaboration between the Palace Museum, the University of Durham, UK,
and the Department of Antiquities and Museum, Ras al-Khaimah, focuses on
the research of archaeological ceramic finds from these sites. In
January 2019, an excavation was carried out by the three parties in
al-Nudud of Julfar.
November 2019, a joint team,including the archaeologists from the
Department of Antiquities and Museums of Ras al-Khaimah, the University
of Durham, Jilin University and the Palace Museum, has been working at
the north and south core areas of al-Mataf by surface survey and
excavations. In the past ten days, not only did the architectural
remains including walls, storages, kitchens and yards are excavated, but
also large quantities of Islamic, European and Far Eastern potteries
are collected. This shows that this site experienced a prosperous period
of global trade in ancient times. Among the finds, the Yongle reign （A.D.1403—1424）dated
imperialtype Jingdezhen blue and white porcelain and celadon sherds
from Longquan Fengdongyan kiln site are most highlighted.
now only two Jingdezhen blue and white porcelain sherds are yielded
from the site, including one piece from the surface collection, and
another one numbered MNIV0202-001 from the north trench(Figure 2).
According to the shape and pattern, these sherds share the similar
features to a Yongle dated blue and white porcelain dish with an
ex-turned rimand floral grape pattern (Figure 3).
the portable X-Ray fluorescence spectrometer analysis, the Yongle reign
dated blue and white porcelain sherds from al-Mataf have the cobalt
pigment with high Feand low Mn (Table 1), which is similar to the
typical Yongle reign dated imperial porcelain. Otherwise, the inclusion
of Rb, Sr and Zr from these two sherds are also the same as the
collections housed in the Forbidden City. Both archaeological and
scientific evidence shows that these sherds from al-Matafcan be
identified as the Yongle reign dated imperial blue and white porcelain
manufactured in Jingdezhen.
terms of celadon sherds collected from the site of al-Mataf (figure 4),
they are also shared the similar body andglaze features to the Yongle
reign dated imperial Longquan celadon housed inthe Forbidden City and
the sherds excavated from the Fengdongyan sites of Dayaosite in Longquan
kilns of Zhejiang Province. The impressed floral peach patternon the
sherd from the survey collections in al-Mataf (Figure 5) is the same as
the decoration of the Palace Museum collection (Figure 6).
XRF analysis it also shows that these celadon sherds from al-Mataf are
sharing the same components with the Chinese collection samples (Table
2): the high inclusion of potassium oxide upto four percent
distinguishes these imperial celadon wares from the other common quality
celadon products at the same period. The inclusion of otherelements
such as Rb, Sr and Zr can also demonstrate this argument. Based on the
typological and scientific discussion, these collections from celadon
sherds collected from al-Mataf can be identified as the Yongle reign
dated imperial porcelain produced at the Fengdongyan site, and they were
the official products only for the Imperial Court of Ming China.
on the historical research of the regulations of the Ming dynasty,
imperial ceramics were not allowed to the people outside of the imperial
palace. These sherds of imperial ceramics fromthe site of al-Mataf of
Ras al-Khaimah can demonstrate the high-level diplomatic touch between
Ras al-Khaimah and Ming China. These imperial ceramic sherds were
probably the gifts directly sent by the Zheng He’s voyages to thelocal
rulers. Rather than this, it is also likely that the local
diplomatic delegates went to China with Zheng He and had the porcelain
as gifts from the Ming Yongle Emperor.