The Neyriz Plain, which is located between Kerman and Fars provinces, with an area of around 240km2 has hosted important settlements belonging to the Islamic era (Figure 1). In order to identifying these settlements and to determine their chronological order, a systematic surface survey was carried out by the authors at the first season of 2017. The first step was to study the ceramic fragments collected from surface survey, and compare them on the basis of similarities of their forms, fabric and decoration. Based on the results of data analysis, the ceramics were classified into eight main categories. So, the main aim of this paper is to perform classification, typification, and propose a relative chronology of the collected potteries from Islamic period sites from the Neyriz Plain. The results suggest a strong relation between the ceramics belonging to the Early to Mid-Islamic era (11-16 cetury AD) and the eastern Iranian civilizations, such as Sirjan. For instance, the slip-painted and polychrome Sgraffiato potteries have considerable similarity to those obtained from Sirjan. Indeed, the Neyriz plain may be considered as one of the main distribution areas of the slip-painted potteries of Sirjan. Moreover, the ceramics dated 13-17 centuries AD are indication of the cultural ties and trade relations between this region of Fars province with Nishabur, Kerman and Sistan regions of Iran.
The main aim of this paper is to perform classification, typification, and to propose a relative chronology of the collected potteries from Islamic period sites from the Neyriz Plain. The objectives are to compare Neyriz Plain potteries to similar ones from other Islamic archaeological sites, and to recognize inter and intraregional connections of the ancient settlements of this plain and other ceramic production centers. The present research aims answer the question of to what extend settlements of the Neyriz Plain find cultural relation to other Iranian Islamic settlements? And how much study of ceramic fragments will reveal such relationships? Primary investigation of historical sources indicates interregional cultural ties between Neyriz and Shiraz (on the west), and Kerman and Sirjan provinces (from the east). Furthermore, considering the location of Neyriz Plain on the main route between Shiraz to Kerman corridor, vast cultural ties can be imagined between Neyriz Plain settelement and eastern Iranian cities, such as Sirjan, Kerman and even Nishabour on the northeast of Iran.
The present research adopts a descriptive-analytical method in both fieldwork and bibliographical studies. Fieldworks consist of pottery findings, typology, and classification of findings (based on similarities of their forms, and decorative elements), while bibliographic activities include literature survey, similar findings, and suggestive dating. Although there have been efforts in investigating pottery data of northern coasts of the Persian Gulf, there is little information on regional data, especially areas between Fars, Kerman, and Mokran (northern area of Persian Gulf) during early Islamic periods. Neyriz, located at the eastern Fars Province on the Shiraz to Sirjan trade corridor, is a marvelous ancient region with remarkable sites. Further to identification of 63 sites at Neyriz Plain, some 911 potsherds recovered from the Bakun to late Islamic periods. The authors focus on 440 Islamic fragments, which were generally divided into two unglazed (214 pieces), and glazed (226 pieces) sherds. Considering their form, temper, impurity and decorations, they were categorized to eight main groups, towards chronological comparison against other similar samples.
Unglazed potteries include two slipped ones and potteries with incised and stamped decorations, which are characteristically the majority in the collection and consisted of two groups of thickly slipped potteries (Figure 2). Glazed samples include six main groups of monochrome, Sgraffito, splashed, slipped painted, underglaze painting, and painting on glaze ceramics. The potteries reveal information about patterns of production, consumption, and distribution of pottery during different periods. Thick slipped potteries date to Sassanid to early Islamic periods (3-8 centuries AD). Considering incised designs under slips and color of slips within the group, it appears that all four groups are from the same period. The first group, with thick slip and fine temper, from Williamson Collection, date to 2nd century BC to 7th AD century (Priestman, 2005: 232-234, 402, Pl. 82-84). It appears, considering incised designs with similar themes, they are later than the other three groups, while they date to a same period. It is confirmable following absence of the same findings from two other Parthian sites in Neyriz Plain. Potteries with incised designs frequently associated with potteries with stamped, and cylindrical designs, similar to findings from Sirjan and Qasr-i-Abu Nasr (Whitcomb, 1985: 122, 135).
However, turquoise glaze is the most common monochrome glaze; it is the most abundant one. On the other hand, there are other monochrome glazes that characteristically are significant in the pottery studies. The white mono chrome pottery that is one of the particles of the “Samarra Horizon”, has several production centers including Sirjan (Williamson, 1987: 15), which appears an indication of a bigger pattern of relations, comparing to previous period. The green mono chrome glazed pottery that is very similar to the same color Sgraffito is reported also as findings of eastern coasts of Africa. The turquoise mono chrome glaze with earthen temper, vastly range many forms and quality of glaze that date as wide as Sassanid to Late Islamic periods, for continuity of production and consumption. The other type is stone paste that mainly appears as open form vessels and date to 11-13 century.
Slip painted wares of Neyriz are similar to the findings from Sirjan, which appears, as a characteristic pottery within 10th and 11th centuries AD, as an indication of more relations to Sirjan. Potteries with splashed and Sgraffito glaze are chronologically and technically similar, which indicate a penetration of Sirjan to Neyriz. Pottery with underglaze paintings from group 1 are similar to findings from other centers including Kashan, Gorgan, and Soltan Abad that had commercial relations. Such pottery can be found in other areas of Iran as well. The underglaze painted Potteries from group 2 indicate commercial relation to the regions such as Nishapur and Samarqand, of which productions have found in other regions including southern Africa. Black painting under turquoise glaze potteries are of common types dated to 13-17 centuries. Blue and white potteries produced at various centers, the closest one Kirman. Turquoise & Black Underglaze-Painted Ware, Blue and White Underglaze-Painted are similar to findings from Keram and Sistan that indicate vast inter regional cultural relation. The absence of some mostly known Islamic potteries including moulded Celadon, and luster ceramics are of the other issues, significant in studies of potteries of Neyriz Plain, which probably is for lack of production and circulation of the wares in the region.