Quantitative Analysis of Ceramics and the Formation of the Archaeological Record in Madinat Ilbirah (Granada, Spain)


  • Miguel Jiménez Puertas Independent Researcher




Islamic ceramics, quantification, site formation, al-Andalus


This paper offers a study of a particular assemblage of ceramics retrieved in a pit in the Islamic town of Madinat Ilbirah (Granada, Spain) to analyse the processes of formation of the archaeological record. This can in turn provide interesting information on the patterns of use and discard of ceramics, and so contribute to a general picture of quotidian social practices in an Islamic town. The theoretical apparatus of the paper combines insights extracted from the works of M. B. Schiffer, well known for his contribution to the study of site formation processes, and methodological ideas by C. Orton, specialist on quantitative analysis of ceramics. These ideas have been circulated and debated by archaeologists for decades, but they have been scarcely applied to the debate on Islamic ceramics in al-Andalus. In this study they are adapted to the particular conditions of the pit assemblage in Ilbirah. The results of this analysis show that the deposit of ceramics found in the pit contains elements of two well-defined periods of early Islamic al-Andalus (late Emiral, 850–925, and Caliphal, 925–1025), and that there are at least three moments of accumulation. The earliest and latest moment of accumulation were built over a relatively long number of years, but the intermediate moment seems to correspond to a process of discarding of the elements of a single domestic unit over a period of about five to ten years. The main aim of this paper is to draw attention to the possibilities and the need of advanced quantitative research in pottery studies. It is hoped that this study will inspire similar works in other Islamic sites, so that significant comparisons can be built.

Author Biography

Miguel Jiménez Puertas, Independent Researcher

Miguel Jiménez Puertas in an archaeologist and completed his PhD in History (specializing in Medieval History) at the University of Granada (Spain). He has published a number of articles and several books related to patterns of settlement, agrarian structures and material culture in the Vega of Granada (Spain).


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How to Cite

Jiménez Puertas, M. (2022). Quantitative Analysis of Ceramics and the Formation of the Archaeological Record in Madinat Ilbirah (Granada, Spain). Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 9(1), 7–29 . https://doi.org/10.1558/jia.23643