Until quite recent times the ewer was the last stop in water's journey from its source to our homes. Before the advent of a mains water supply, water was brought from public fountains by water carriers and poured into great water jars, or raised from garden wells. Ewers were then filled with water for various pur poses around the house. Ewers were therefore receptacles of vital importance in people's lives, and in form and decoration reflected this role. From the time of the Seljuk Empire, which extended across western Asia and Anatolia, and its successor the Anatolian Seljuk state, theewer
object of aesthetic beauty and a significant chapter in the history of art. It even took its place in Turkish literature, as in these lines by the famous Ottoman poet Nabi (1642-1712) on ewers and their companion basins into which the waste water was poured 'Ndhi may not perceive what God destines /
might be / Although ewer and basin are of a single metal / In one the water is pure, in the other impure.'
Although the ewer was a vessel that had been widely used in pre-Islamic times, the central importance of ablutions in the Islamic faith lent the ewer almost spiritual significance. Thus it became one of the most valued household objects, not only in terms of its function for storing and carrying water, but as a symbol of purity and economy. The Ottoman Turks attached great importance to water, and frowned upon the waste of even a single drop of this precious substance. At the court and in the homes of the rich and powerful, ewer bearers were employed to bring their masters ewers of water for washing their hands and faces, performing ritual ablutions, and for drinking. In the harem of the imperial palace, the chief ewer bearer was one of the seven principal female officers of the household and received high wages. In ordinary homes the younger members of the family performed this task, bringing ewers and pouring water for their elders. After the water had been poured, it was customary for the person so served to express thanks by reciting a prayer for the younger. Since this task was regarded as almost a sacred duty, it became a ritual whose forms were taught to children from a young age. It was not unknown for an older person to pour water for a younger, if the latter was in a position to command special respect. So a great statesman might pour water for a religious scholar. Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617), for example, is known to have poured water from a ewer for the great mystic Aziz Mahmud Hilddi.
Those who could afford and appreciated the niceties of etiquette placed perforated strainers inside their basins so that the unattractive sight of used dirty water was concealed. Households kept several ewers for specific purposes, and special sets for the use of guests. Some houses hung the following message for guests on the wall facing Mecca: 'O guest, know this is the direction of Mecca for your prayers. Here is your basin, here your ewer, and here your napkin is hung.' When a girl was to be married, her trousseau included at least one set of ewer and basin, and a large ewer known as a gusul gugumu for washing her entire body. Although similar at first sight, ewers actually vary widely both in form and direction of Mecca for your prayers. Here is your basin, here your ewer, and here your napkin is hung.' When a girl was to be married, her trousseau included at least one set of ewer and basin, and a large ewer known as a gusul gugumu for washing her entire body. Although similar at first sight, ewers actually vary widely both in form and ornamentation. Today over a hundred different types of ewer are to be seen in Turkey, and an expert can recognise the province of origin of each. The most important centres of ewer production in the past were Istanbul, Tokat, Malatya, Kastamonu, Sivas, Erzincan, Gaziantep, Siirt, Kayseri, Denizli, and Qorum. Moreover, different craftsmen produced ewers with distinctive characteristics. Most ewers were made of copper, some of