Grenade - 908.19.10_1

908.19.10_1

Grenade

Medium:Ceramic (stoneware, thrown, with punctate and incised decoration)
Geography: Cairo, Egypt
Date: 12th-13th century AD
Period: Fatimid/Mamluk Period
Dimensions:
11.9 x 9.7 cm
Object number: 908.19.10
Not on view
DescriptionTwo things make these vessels very distinct: the high-temperature firing of the vessel, and the very thick walls. The bodies are stoneware, fired to about 1200°C, while all other pottery was fired to about 1000°C. The walls are very thick, with a minimum wall thickness of almost 10mm, while typically vessels of about this size have a maximum vessel wall thickness of about 5mm. So these vessels must have had a very unusual function, one not like any other vessel. There have been a number of suggestions for the function, but none of them explain the unusual nature except one: they were hand-grenades. The strength of the vessel would mean it would create a bigger explosion, and more deadly shrapnel. The components of gunpowder were certainly known in the Middle East, and there is evidence of hand-grenades in China from the 10th century, shortly before we see the first appearance of this type in the Middle East. They disappear from the archaeological record at about the time that guns become important. The tests made for the Museum Secret's show indicate that the patterns of breakage found in the ancient objects are echoed by the replicas that were exploded by gunpowder, which strongly supports this hypothesis.
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