Mortar and pestle made for Abu Bakr 'Ali Malikzad al-Tabrizi

Object Name: Mortar and pestle

Date: late 12th–early 13th century

Geography: Attributed to Iran

Medium: Brass; cast, chased, engraved, and inlaid with silver and black compound

Dimensions: Mortar: 91.1.527a
H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)
Diam. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Pestle: 91.1.527b
H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)
Diam. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891

Accession Number: 91.1.527a, b


While only seven planets were known by medieval Arab astronomers, an invisible eighth planet called al-tinnin or al-jawzahr (the dragon) was thought to cause solar and lunar eclipses. According to Hindu mythology from which this idea may have originated, the planet, which was described in Arab texts as a dragon monster, periodically devoured the sun or moon. Two medallions on this mortar depict the planet, shown here in the form of a seated figure flanked by dragon-headed snakes.