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Bronze mortar, Middle East, 1501-1800

Mortars were used as a bowl to crush, grind and mix ingredients using a pestle. The powders would be added to syrups and form the base of tablets. Drug preparations have been made in this way for centuries in the home and by apothecaries and pharmacists. The Islamic-style design on this mortar has been worn away. See how it is unbalanced at the base? The foot of the bronze mortar has been bowed, again because of use. It is unclear exactly where this object was made although the Middle East or North Africa are possibilities.

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Glossary: mortar

Cup-shaped vessel in which drugs or herbal mixtures are pounded with a pestle.

Glossary: pestle

An elongated piece of hard material usually made of stone. A pestle is used for grinding pigments, herbs, spices or other materials in a mortar.