Study of the traces of nature in herbal deposits of a thousand-year-old Alembic glass analyzed and processed by the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS). - Journal of Research on Archaeometry
------------------------------------------ ---------------------------------------
year 6, Issue 1 (2020)                   JRA 2020, 6(1): 119-135 | Back to browse issues page

XML Persian Abstract Print

Download citation:
BibTeX | RIS | EndNote | Medlars | ProCite | Reference Manager | RefWorks
Send citation to:

Hosseinian Yeganeh N, Shishegar A, Emami M, Nejad Ebrahimi S. Study of the traces of nature in herbal deposits of a thousand-year-old Alembic glass analyzed and processed by the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometer (GC-MS).. JRA 2020; 6 (1) :119-135
1- Islamic Azad University, Central Tehran Branch ,
2- Archaeological Research (ICAR), Tehran
3- University of Isfahan
4- Shahid Beheshti University
Abstract:   (2751 Views)
During the Islamic periods, the containers characterized by narrow or pear-shaped glass-body with a round bottom and long drainage pipe or tube were known, but rarely have been studied. There are three different hypotheses for applications of such containers. A cupping glass(Shakh-i hajamat) for phlebotomize in medicine, “Alembic” for chemical or alchemical experiments, or containers for pharmaceuticals and the production of cosmetics and perfumes which has been used for making the materials and transfer them through tubes, or perfume containers as particular container for cosmetics. It seems that if the container is placed from the opening on a surface, then its pipe is wholly bent in the opposite direction of the body. Where it is taller than the body, it could be used or applied as a cupping glass for phlebotomize in medicine or as a container for materials in medications, cosmetics and perfumery. If the pipe is entirely straight and perpendicular to the body or slightly curved, it could be used for all three applications mentioned above. In Islamic periods, the Arabic word of KIMIA (elixir) was synonymous with alchemy and chemistry in the viewpoint of technology and therefore, includes a variety of processes, including distillation of herbs and medicinal oils, perfumes and rosewater, and fragrant oils and other substances. Some of tools and equipment used for alchemy have been made of glass like the distiller. There have been many pacts for using these kinds of container in the Islamic literature written by Abu Musa Jaber Ibn Hayyan (Around 721 to 815 AD) and Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī (865 to 923 AD) who were known as the greatest scientists in the history of chemistry and chemical technology in the Islamic world. Their scientific and practical works have had a great impact on the scientists and researchers of the next generations, both Muslims and Europeans. Many methods, such as distillation and all kinds of basic related tools, such as Cucurbit (qar’a) and Alembic (al-inbīq) have been attributed to Jabir Ibn Hayyan. However, al-Razi in his book, Kitab al-asrar or Secret of alchemy, among the tools and devices for chemical processing (Tadbir) and distillation (Taqtir), has mentioned to them and studied the Cucurbit and Alembic with an outlet pipe, a distilled liquid container, recipient (qabila) and a blind Alembic (without an outlet pipe) (anbiq al'aemaa). As a matter of fact, the chemical composition of materials inside such containers discovered in Iran has not yet been studied, while it is a critical issue for the characterization and application of these containers. For the first time, one of such containers with a long and straight tube which was kept in the Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran has been analyzed and processed by the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) technique. The analysis of chemical compounds detected in this container revealed that it had been exposed to essential, and natural oils for a long time. The GC-MS analysis of the washing solution led to the identification of 22 substances, where the main identified compounds were: thymol, carvacrol, p-cymene and γ-terpinene, fatty acids (palmitic acid and stearic acid), and a significant number of substances of the waxes groups. Thymol and carvacrol are the main substances of natural essential oils of Thyme, Savory and Marjoram. Also, the findings of this research have proved the contact of the above-mentioned container with natural essential oils, especially thyme. The ingredients found in this container could be recognizable in many distillates. So, it can suggest that the container has been used as an Alembic for distillation and extraction of vegetable and volatile oil substances in pharmacy, cosmetics and perfumes. More analysis in the future on the contaminated materials within such containers can give more clues and advantages for clarifying the more possible application of these containers.
Full-Text [PDF 1723 kb]   (846 Downloads)    
Technical Note: Original Research | Subject: Archaeometry
Received: 2020/04/18 | Accepted: 2020/06/17 | Published: 2020/06/30 | ePublished: 2020/06/30

1. Al_hassan A.Y, Hill D.R. Islamic Technology, An Illustrated History. Paris: Unesco; 1992.
2. Ar-Razis M.Z. Kitab al-asrar or Secret of alchemy. Translated by Hassan Ali Sheybany. Tehran: Tehran University; 1970. [in Persian] [رازی محمد زکریا. کتاب الاسرار یا رازهای صنعت کیمیا. ترجمه و تحقیق حسن‏علی شیبانی، تهران: دانشگاه تهران؛ ۱۳۴۹.]
3. Kroger J, Kröger J. Nishapur: glass of the early Islamic period. Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1995.
5. Science and society Museum of london / Science & Society Picture Library [Image in the Internet].Nodate [Update Nodate, cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
6. Janpoladian HM. The Medieval Glassware of Dvin. The Archaeological Monuments and Specimens of Armenia. 1974;7:80-2.
7. Bass GF, Lledo B, Matthews S, Brill RH. Serçe Limani, Vol 2: The Glass of an Eleventh-Century Shipwreck. Texas A&M University Press; 2009 Jul 20: 377-384.
8. Carboni S, Brill RH, Whitehouse D, Gudenrath W. Glass of the Sultans. Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2001.
9. Sajjadi Hazaveh L.S. Ahamadi, N. Alembics from Tower No.1 of Bam Citadel. 4th Iranian National Archaeological Conference, Birjand University; 2019, Sponsored by Civilica. [in Persian] [سجادی هزاوه لیلا سادات، احمدی نرگس. انبیق ها در برج شماره ۱ ارگ بم. مجموعه مقالات چهارمین همایش ملی باستان‏شناسی ایران. دانشگاه بیرجند: پایگاه سیویلیکا آبان ۱۳۹۸؛ صص۹-۱.]
10. Ghaini F. Glassware & Ceramic Museum of Iran. Tehran: General Directorate of Education; 2004. [in Persian] [قائینی فرزانه. موزه آبگینه و سفالینه های ایران. تهران: اداره کل آموزش؛ ۱۳۸۳.]
11. Nasr SH. Islamic science: an illustrated study.
12. Al-Hassani ST. 1001 inventions: The enduring legacy of Muslim civilization. National Geographic Books; 2012.
13. Thevet A. La Cosmographie Vniverselle D'André Thevet Cosmographe Dv Roy, Paris: Pierre l'Huilier, Binding II; 1575. [in French]
14. Wulff HE. The traditional crafts of Persia: Their development, technology and influence on Eastern and Western civilizations.
15. Nasr SH. Science and civilization in Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1968 Jan 1.
16. Kheirandish,H, Shojaeeefar E & Alipasha Meysamie A. Role of Cupping in the treatment of different diseases. systematic review article. Tehran: Univ Med J (TUMJ) 2017 March;74(12):829-42. [in Persian] [خیراندیش حسین، شجاعی‏فر احسان، پاشا میثمی علی. حجامت در درمان بیماري‏ها: مقاله مروري نظاممند، مجله دانشکده پزشکی، دانشگاه علوم پزشکی تهران: اسفند ۱۳۹۵، دوره 74، شماره 12: 829 تا 842.]
17. Maddison F, Savage-Smith E. Science, Tools & Magic: Body and Spirit, Mapping the Universe. Nour Foundation; 1997.
18. Ettinghausen R. Grabar O. The Art and Architecture of Islam. 650-1250 United States: Yale University Press New Haven, CT; 1994.
19. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FRANCE[Image in the Internet].Nodate [Update Nodate, cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
20. Kurzmann P. Einige Glasgeräte der arabischen Alchemie. Sudhoffs Archiv. 2009 Jan 1:184-200.
21. Grabar O. A Newly Discovered Illustrated Manuscript of the" Maqāmāt" of Ḥarīri. Ars Orientalis. 1963 Jan 1:97-109.
22. Bolshakov OG. The St. Petersburg Manuscript of the Maqamat by al-Hariri and its Place in the History of Arab Painting. Manuscripta Orientalia. 1997 Dec;3(4):1997.
23. NATIONAL LIBRARY OF FRANCE [Image in the Internet].Nodate [Update Nodate, cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
24. Kordmahini, H. A. The Glass, in Kiani, M. Y. The Islamic City of Gurgan. AMI, suppl. vol. II. Berlin: 1984
25. Dieulafoy M. L'acropole de Suse: d'après les fouilles exécutées en 1884, 1885, 1886, sous les auspices du Musée du Louvre. Hachette; 1893. [in French]
26. Lamm CJ. Les verres trouvés à Suse. Syria: Volume 12, Issue 4 1931 Jan 1; p.358-367. [in French] [DOI:10.3406/syria.1931.3577]
27. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [Image in the Internet].2009[Update nodate. cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
28. Musee du Louvre Editions Cataloge/ Louvere editions. [Image in the Internet].2012[Update 2019 sep 22 cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
29. Hatami F. Susa Alembic Glass. Proceeding of National Museum of Iran(1), Tehran: National Museum of Iran & Tanian; 2005, pp.71-83 [in Persian] [حاتمی فاطمه. انبیق شیشه‏ای شوش. مجموعه مقاله‏های موزه ملی ایران، تهران: موزه ملی ایران و تانیان، ۸۳-۷۱؛ ۱۳۸۴.]
30. Whitcomb DS. Before the roses and nightingales: excavations at Qasr-i Abu Nasr, Old Shiraz. Metropolitan Museum of Art; 1985.
31. Faryadian, B. The first new season of excavation of the historical city of Saymareh. Ilam province, Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Dare Shahr Historical Site Research Database, Iranian Center for Archaeological Reserch; 2009. [in Persian] [فریادیان بهزاد. اولین فصل جدید کاوش شهر تاریخی سیمره. ایلام: سازمان میراث فرهنگی، صنایع دستی و گردشگری، پایگاه پژوهشی محوطه تاریخی دره شهر، مرکز اسناد و مدارک پژوهشکده باستان شناسی؛ 1388.]
32. Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Samojlik I, Jovin E. Antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of rosemary and sage (Rosmarinus officinalis L. and Salvia officinalis L., Lamiaceae) essential oils. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2007 Sep 19;55(19):7879-85. [DOI:10.1021/jf0715323]
33. Colombini, M.P. and Modugno, F. eds. 2009. Organic mass spectrometry in art and archaeology. John Wiley & Sons. [DOI:10.1002/9780470741917]
34. Jaymand K, Rezaee M.B, Essentional oils, Distillations apparatuses, test methods of essential oils and retention indices in essentinal oil analysis. Iran; 2006 [in Persian] [جایمند کامکار، رضایی محمد‏باقر. اسانس، دستگاه‏های تقطیر، روش آزمون و شاخص‏های بازداری در تجزیه اسانس. تهران: انجمن گیاهان دارویی ایران؛ 1385.]
35. Wikimedia Commons [Image in the Internet].2006[Update 12 November 2017, at 12:02. cited 2020 May 25] Available from:
36. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [Image in the Internet].2009[Update nodate. cited 2020 May 25] Available from:

Rights and permissions
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

© 2024 CC BY-NC 4.0 | Journal of Research on Archaeometry

Designed & Developed by : Yektaweb