Corinthians’ trade

In the 9th and 10th centuries, Corinthians was involved in trade with Basra.

Washington: A new research has revealed that medieval Corinth was involved in long distance trade throughout the Middle East.

Robert Mason, a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto Canada, said these imports include rare and complex ceramics from places as distant as Kashan Iran, more than 2,500 kilometres away.

By studying the minerals the pots are made out of, and the decorations on their surface, he is able to determine where and when they were created.

He said that the Corinthians started this long distance trade almost as soon as they got back on their feet. In the 9th and 10th centuries, as Corinth was beginning its expansion, the city imported pieces from Basra, a centre of pottery production located in southern Iraq, near the Persian Gulf.

“How it (pottery from Basra) got there is hard to say. There’s like one or two in the 9th century (then) a whole bunch in the 10th century,” the Unreported Heritage News quoted Mason as saying.

Mason described them as “beautiful shining pots, very different from the stuff they would have had locally.”

They “might have been gifts,” he said, perhaps from a bishop in the Middle East.

“The trading networks of some of these pottery production centres are quite colossal. Basra, for instance, covers the full extent of the Old World as found in China, in Spain, South Africa,” Mason added.

Mason explained that they used a complex technique to create them.

“You have a finished vessel and you paint it with this metallic paint which then fuses to the surface in another firing.” However “if you don’t fire it properly the second time you’ll end up with a complete mess.”

All together from AD 800 to AD 1200 the people also brought in ceramics from Damascus, Fustat (in present day Old Cairo) and Kashan. The 9th and 10th century ceramics tended to be from Basra. On other hand the 12th century saw Corinth take in imports from Damascus as well as a small number from Iran.

However, After AD 1200 he could not find a single piece of pottery from the Middle East at Corinth.

“After 1200 there’s nothing there and I don’t know why – it’s not like there’s something unpleasant going on,” said Mason.

For now, Mason and the other Corinth researchers are trying to find out what might have stopped this trade.