The Early Islamic Pottery from the Monastery at al-Qusur


  • Julie Bonnéric Institut français du Proche-Orient



pottery, Early Islamic period, Sasanian, Eastern Christianity, Islamization, Arab-Persian Guld


The pottery discovered at al-Qusur (Failaka Island, Kuwait) is of first importance to clarify the
dating of the Christian settlements of the Arab-Persian Gulf. Firstly attributed to the Sasanian
period by their excavators on the base of pottery and stucco studies, theses sites were then
attributed to the Early Islamic period by other scholars according to the artefacts published.
Complete catalogues of the materiel unearthed on these sites are still lacking. This article offers a
first overview of the pottery discovered at al-Qu??r by the French Mission in Kuwait in 1988–1989
and in 2007–2009 in two buildings identified as two churches (A1 and A2), two courtyard houses
(B1 and B8), and seven isolated buildings (B2–B7 and B9). The corpus was incomplete due to the
loss of sherds from 1988 and 1989 campaigns during the Gulf war and to the treatment of part
of the pottery discovered from 2007 to 2009. If quantification was meaningless and petrography
impossible, this corpus reflects the cultural proximity of the site with Mesopotamia and Persia
and diagnostic sherds such as pitchers with gouged lines or pointed circles with incised lines and
gouged motifs, stamped sherds, carinated turquoise-glazed cups, attest that the main occupation
of the site is related to an Early Islamic period. This dating is consistent with other Christian sites
in the region, contradicting both Arabic and Syriac sources that propounded the disappearance
of Christianity as soon as the beginnings of Islam.

Author Biography

Julie Bonnéric, Institut français du Proche-Orient

Julie Bonnéric is an archaeologist and co-director of the French-Kuwaiti Archaeological Mission
in Failaka. One of her research projects, led at the French Center for Archaeology & Social
Sciences (Cefas, Kuwait), focused on Christianity in the Arab-Persian Gulf and southern Iraq
at the beginning of Islam. As a PhD student at the EPHE-Sorbonne (Paris, France) and Junior
Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg (Bonn, Germany), she explored lighting in Near East
mosques from a historical anthropological point of view, relying on Arabic textual, architectural
and iconographic sources. She is now research fellow at the French Institute of the Near
East (IFPO) and the head of the Amman Office, where she will lead a project on the marginalization
of the Antique city of Jerash from the late Antiquity to the end of the Mamluk period.


Adams, (McC) R.

“Tell Ab? Sar?fa : A Sassanian-Islamic Ceramic Sequence from South Central Iraq.” Ars Orientalis 8: 87–119.

Beaucamp, J. and C. Robin.

“Le christianisme dans la péninsule Arabique d’après l’épigraphie et l’archéologie.” Hommages à Paul Lemerle, 45–61. Travaux et mémoires Centre de recherche d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance 8. Paris: De Boccard.

Benediková, L.

Failaka and Miskan Islands 2004-2009. Primary Scientific Report on the Activities of the Kuwaiti-Slovak Archaeological Mission. Kuwait City: National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters.

Bernard, V., O. Callot and J.-F. Salles.

“L’église d’al-Qousour Failaka, État de Koweit. Rapport préliminaire sur une première campagne de fouilles.” Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 2(3): 145–181.

Bernard, V. and J.-F. Salles.

“Discovery of a Christian Church at Al-Qusur, Failaka (Kuwait).” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 21: 7–21.

Bonnéric, J.

“Les établissements chrétiens du golfe Arabo-Persique au tournant de l’Islam à la lumière du site archéologique d’al-Qu??r (île de Faïlaka, Koweït).” Parole de l’Orient 41: 103–123.

Al-Qu??r, a Christian Monastery on Failaka Island (Kuwait). An archaeological and historical guide book. Kuwait City: National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters.

“Al-Qu??r: Latest results from the French-Kuwaiti Archaeological Mission in Failaka (2011–2015).” In Archaeology of Failaka and Kuwaiti coast—current research, edited by M. Ruttkay, K. Pieta and B. Kovár, 127–134. Nitra: Institute of Archaeology SAS.

Briquel-Chatonnet, F.

“L’expansion du christianisme en Arabie : l’apport des sources syriaques.” Semitica et Classica 3(1): 177–187.

Carter, R.

“The Pottery.” In The Land of Enki in the Islamic Era. Pearls, Palms, and Religious Identity in Bahrain, edited by T. Insoll, 107–192, 401–451. London: Kegan Paul.

“Christianity in the Gulf during the first centuries of Islam.” Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 19(1): 71–108.

“Christianity in the Gulf after the Coming of Islam: Redating the Churches and Monasteries of Bet Qatraye.” In Les préludes de l’islam. Ruptures et continuités des civilisations du Proche-Orient, de l’Afrique orientale, de l’Arabie et de l’Inde à la veille de l’Islam, edited by Ch. Robin, and J. Schiettecatte, 311–330. Paris: De Boccard.

Carter, R., J. Connan, S. Priestman, and R. Tomber.

“Torpedo jars from Sir Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi.” Tribulus, Journal of the Emirates Natural History Group 19: 162–163.

Carter, R. and J. Naranjo-Santana.

Muharraq Excavations 2010. Oxford Brookes Archaeology & Heritage, Oxford.

Elders, J.

“The lost churches of the Arabian Gulf: Recent discoveries on the islands of Sir Bani Yas and Marawah, Abu Dhabi emirate, United Arab Emirates.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 31: 47–57.

Fey, J.-M.

“Diocèses syriens orientaux du Golfe Persique.” In Mémorial Mgr Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis, edited by François Graffin, 177–219. Louvain: Imprimerie orientaliste.

Finster, B. and J. Schmidt.

“Sasanidische and frühislamische Ruinen im Iraq.” Baghdader Mitteilungen 8: 7–169.

Fujii, H., H. Ohnuma, H. Shibata, and Y. Okad.

“Excavations at Ain Sha?ia ruins and Dukakin Caves.” Al-Rafidan 10: 2788.

Gachet, J.

“Akkaz (Kuwait), a site of the Partho-Sasanid period. A preliminary report on three campaigns of excavation (1993–1996).” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 28: 69–79.

Le Tell d’Akkaz au Koweït / Tell Akkaz in Kuwait. Lyon: Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée (Travaux 57).

Hardy-Guilbert, C.

“Les niveaux islamiques du secteur Apadana-Ville Royale.” Cahiers de la DAFI 14: 121–209.

Hardy-Guilbert, C. and A. Rougeulle.

“La céramique et les verres du monastère.” In L’île de Kharg : une page de l’histoire du Golfe Persique et du monachisme oriental, edited by M.-J. Steve, 131–149. Neuchâtel: Recherches et publications.

al-Husaini, M. B.

“Al-Ukhaidhir.” Sumer 22: 79–94.

al-Jahwari, N. S., D. Kennet, S. Priestman and E. Sauer.

“Fulayj: A Late Sasanian fort on the Arabian coast.” Antiquity 92(363): 724741.

Kennet, D.

“Excavations at the site of al-Qu??r, Failaka, Kuwait.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 21: 97–111.

Sasanian and Islamic Pottery from Ras al-Khaimah. Classification, Chronology and Analysis of Trade in the Western Indian Ocean. Oxford: Archaeopress.

“The decline of eastern Arabia in the Sasanian Period.” Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 18: 86–122.

“Transformations in late Sasanian and Early Islamic Eastern Arabia: the evidence from Kush.” In L’Arabie à la veille de l’Islam, edited by C. Robin, and J. Schiettecatte, 135–161. Paris : Editions de Boccard (Orient et Méditerranée, 3).

Khadhima. Kuwait in the Early Centuries of Islam. Kuwait: National Council for Culture, Arts & Letters.

Kervran, M.

“Les niveaux islamiques du secteur oriental du Tépé de l’Apadana. II. Le matériel céramique.” Cahiers de la DAFI 7: 75–161.

King, G.R.D.

“A Nestorian Monastic Settlement on the Island of ??r Ban? Y?s, Abu Dhabi: A Preliminary Report.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 60(2): 221–235.

Koechlin, R.

Les céramiques musulmanes de Suse au Musée du Louvre. Paris: E. Leroux.

Lic, A.

“Chronology of stucco production in the Gulf and southern Mesopotamia in the early Islamic period.” Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies 47: 151–162.

Northedge, A.

“Middle Sasanian to Islamic Pottery.” In Excavations at ??na, edited by A. Northedge, A. Bamber and M. Roaf, 76–114. Warminster: Aris & Philips.

Okada, Y.

“Early Christian architecture in the Iraqi south-western desert.” Al-Rafidan 12: 71–83.

“Ain Sha?ia and the early Gulf churches: an architectural analogy.” Al-Rafidan 13: 87–93.

Patitucci, S., and G. Uggeri.

Failakah : Insediamenti medievali Islamici, Ricerche e scavi nel Kuwait. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider.

Priestman, S.

“A quantitative archaeological analysis of ceramic exchange in the Persian Gulf and Western Indian Ocean, AD c.4001275.” Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Southampton.

Rosen Ayalon, M.

La poterie islamique de Suse, Ville Royale de Suse IV. Paris: P. Geuthner.

Rousset, M. O.

“Quelques précisions sur le matériel de ??ra (céramique et verre).” Archéologie Islamique 4: 19–55.

Rye, O. S.

Pottery Technology : Principles and Reconstruction. Washington: Taraxacum.

Safar, F.

W?si?, the sixth season’s excavations. Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale.

Salles, J.-F.

“Chronologies du monachisme dans le Golfe arabo-persique.” In Monachisme d’Orient : images, échanges, influences. Hommage à Antoine Guillaumont, cinquantenaire de la chaire des “Christianismes orientaux,” edited by F. Jullien and M.J. Pierre, 97–111. Turnhout: Brepols.

Salles, J. F. and O. Callot.

“Les églises antiques de Koweït et du golfe Persique.” In Les églises en monde syriaque, edited by F. Briquel-Chatonnet, 237–268. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

Simpson, St J.

“Christians on Iraq’s Desert Frontier.”Al-R?fid?n 39: 1–30.

Steve, M.J.

L’île de Kharg : une page de l’histoire du Golfe Persique et du monachisme oriental. Neuchâtel: Hermann Gasche.

Talbot Rice, D.

“The Oxford Excavations at ??ra.” Ars Islamica 1: 51–73.

Tampoe, M.

Maritime Trade between China and the West : an Archaeological Study of the Ceramics from Siraf (Persian Gulf), 8th to 15th A.D. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

Whitehouse, D.

“Excavations at S?r?f fifth interim report.” Iran 10: 63–87.

“Islamic glazed pottery in Iraq and the Persian Gulf: the ninth and tenth centuries.” Annali Istituto Orientale di Napoli 39: 45–61.



How to Cite

Bonnéric, J. (2020). The Early Islamic Pottery from the Monastery at al-Qusur. Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 7(1), 21–38.