There is a long tradition of inscribed marble funerary steles in the Islamic world. This stele is a dignified example of North African production, typically Tunisian, during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The fifteen-line kufic inscription includes the name of someone who was possibly a leather merchant (jallad, although this could also imply the profession of a torturer, according to Abdullah Ghouchani). Mid-Sha'ban 376 H/29 December 986 CE is the date given for his death and for the collection of his body by his brother from the city in which he died. The date inscribed for his burial in another city, most likely his hometown, is mid-Jumada II 377 H/15 October 987 CE, which means he was interred some ten months after he died. The city of death has been read as Cairo (Misr) but also as Mansuf. The stele was not made from a ‘new’ piece of marble, but fom a Roman baluster with large scrolling acanthus leaves carved in deep intaglio. It probably dates back to around 300 CE and must have lain unused with architectural debris for seven hundred years before being turned into a funerary stele. Such examples of reuse of precious materials point to the scarcity of materials in areas such as North Africa.
Source: Aga Khan Museum
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