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Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller's new paper on ancient Arabian trade

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  • Francesco Brighenti
    Dear List, Forwarded below is a message, posted at another List, that reproduces some interesting excerpts from a new (2009) paper by Nicole Boivin and Dorian
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 1, 2009
      Dear List,

      Forwarded below is a message, posted at another List, that reproduces some interesting excerpts from a new (2009) paper by Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller dealing with long-distance maritime trade on the Indian Ocean with focus on the Bronze-Age Arabian Peninsula.

      Couldn't the paper in question be temporarily posted in the List's Files section for download? (Dorian?)

      I'm particularly interested in knowing more, and possibly in debating here, on the following items (see the forwarded message):

      1) transport of Indian zebus by boat from South Asia to Africa starting from the early 2nd mill. BCE;

      2) literary evidence for trade with South Asia contained in the Mari Letters (18th century BCE);

      3) trade of pepper from South Asia to Egypt at ca. 1200 BCE.

      Thanks and best regards,
      Francesco


      ----------------------START FORWARDED MESSAGE-----------------------


      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/5294
      Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:43 pm
      From: Carlos Aramayo


      Dear friends,

      I've just received from Dorian Fuller the most recent article co-authored by him:

      Boivin, Nicole & Dorian Fuller 2009. "Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula", in Journal of World Prehistory 22, pp. 113-180.

      Of course, it deals basically with Arabian Peninsula and its relationship and trade with neighbour cultures since Mid-Holocene, but it gives good information regarding India too, as:

      "A unique and difficult to explain find... of remarkably early (fourth millennium BC) cotton thread embedded in plaster from the site of Dhuweila in the Arabian desert in Eastern Jordan... At this period, the only region likely to have been cultivating cotton and producing such textiles is Baluchistan... It is unclear whether such textiles might have found their way through down-the-line trade over land or via the Persian Gulf. Such exotic types of textiles would
      presumably have been prized exchange items" (p. 128).

      The case of date palms is also mentioned: "...date palms were for some millennia restricted to Eastern Arabia, Iran and probably Baluchistan before they spread westwards. Further west, the earliest dates occur in southwest Libya just before 1000 BC..." (p. 136).

      Authors also point out that the word for Meluhha was used in Mesopotamia to describe different places in different periods: "...Meluhha has referred sometimes to a place in the region of the Indus River, and (much later) to somewhere in Africa..." (p. 136).

      There is also the extraordinary case of Indian zebu being transported to Africa:

      "An intringing, if still speculative, implication would be that the techniques for transporting large fauna by boat from South Asia were already established by the early second millennium BC. Such means would have been important for the transport of Indian zebu bulls, a few of which had probably reached the African savannas by this time" (p. 140).

      And the case of maritime activity in early Bronze Age reaching Mediterranean:

      "...these networks linked southern Mesopotamia, the eastern littoral and islands of the upper and central Persian Gulf (Bahrain and Failaka), the Oman peninsula, eastern Iran and the Western littoral of the Indian subcontinent... and were complemented by riverine and overland routes that connected the coastal sites and ports to a rich array of both nearby and distant inland sites (evidence for trade connections is found as far away as the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia...)" (p. 142).

      But Boivin and Fuller themselves paradoxically also point out that:

      "Neither textual nor archaeological evidence provide much, if any, sign of any of the Mesopotamians having reached India during the Bronze Age. With the Harappans, on the other hand, there are good indications of maritime capability, with texts indicating their physical presence in the Persian Gulf, and geography favouring the emergence of maritime savoir-faire, especially for the Kutch and
      Saurashtra regions...But the role of the Harappans should not be
      over-emphasised. There are no signs to date, as Cleuziou and Possehl have emphasised, for formal Harappan ports, with quays, warehouses, broad roads and/or trade good detritus, and it seems likely that, contrary to some of the implications in the literature, Harappan trade with regions to the west was always relatively informal, involving small-scale ports and local communities" (p. 164).

      Southeastern Arabia trade with India since the early third millennium BC is however highlighted by the authors: "Nonetheless, imported shell and other materials reinforce the impression, garnered from textual sources, that maritime trade with the still emergent Indus Valley civilisation began at an earlier date than we currently have good archaeological evidence for..." (p. 144).

      Authors also mention the interesting early contacts between India and Egypt: "Around 1200 BC, the first pepper in the Egyptian record, positively identified from the dried fruits in the nostrils of the mummy of Ramses II... This is the first indication of possible contact between Egypt and India, though by what route remains unclear" (p. 153, 154). Although contacts with Egypt could be even earlier as zebu transport to Africa, already mentioned, could have crossed through Egypt.

      Boivin and Fuller also point out the no less important continuity between Harappan and Late Harappan trade with Persian Gulf: "Evidence for Harappan trade continues into the Late Harappan period, as evidenced by both archaeological finds and textual sources like Mari letters... As discussed below, and indicated
      by ceramic parallels, trade was by this point clearly with the Late Harappan communities of Gujarat..." (p. 155).

      Boivin and Fuller cite other earlier authors in their work which I avoid in quotations in order to be clearer. There are also other passages related to Indo-Arabian trade not mentioned above that you can read in the original. This work is useful despite the tendency of the authors to reduce the importance of some India's achivements and highlight others, as is current in many western scholars that try to show a false image of impartiality.

      Best regards,

      Carlos


      --------------------END FORWARDED MESSAGE---------------------------
    • D. O'Donovan
      This is a subject of interest to me too. In relation to the zebu - I should have thought the date of introduction earlier, and it could be less an indication
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 5, 2009
        This is a subject of interest to me too. In relation to the zebu - I should have thought the date of introduction earlier, and it could be less an indication of trade than of immigration, though Hill notes that trade in lapis lazuli into Egypt occurs from the fourth millennium 'when the only known source... was Afghanistan'.

        Diane O'Donovan

        --- In Indo-Eurasian_research@yahoogroups.com, "Francesco Brighenti" <frabrig@...> wrote:
        >
        >
        >
        > Dear List,
        >
        > Forwarded below is a message, posted at another List, that reproduces some interesting excerpts from a new (2009) paper by Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller dealing with long-distance maritime trade on the Indian Ocean with focus on the Bronze-Age Arabian Peninsula.
        >
        > Couldn't the paper in question be temporarily posted in the List's Files section for download? (Dorian?)
        >
        > I'm particularly interested in knowing more, and possibly in debating here, on the following items (see the forwarded message):
        >
        > 1) transport of Indian zebus by boat from South Asia to Africa starting from the early 2nd mill. BCE;
        >
        > 2) literary evidence for trade with South Asia contained in the Mari Letters (18th century BCE);
        >
        > 3) trade of pepper from South Asia to Egypt at ca. 1200 BCE.
        >
        > Thanks and best regards,
        > Francesco
        >
        >
        > ----------------------START FORWARDED MESSAGE-----------------------
        >
        >
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Abhinavagupta/message/5294
        > Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:43 pm
        > From: Carlos Aramayo
        >
        >
        > Dear friends,
        >
        > I've just received from Dorian Fuller the most recent article co-authored by him:
        >
        > Boivin, Nicole & Dorian Fuller 2009. "Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula", in Journal of World Prehistory 22, pp. 113-180.
        >
        > Of course, it deals basically with Arabian Peninsula and its relationship and trade with neighbour cultures since Mid-Holocene, but it gives good information regarding India too, as:
        >
        > "A unique and difficult to explain find... of remarkably early (fourth millennium BC) cotton thread embedded in plaster from the site of Dhuweila in the Arabian desert in Eastern Jordan... At this period, the only region likely to have been cultivating cotton and producing such textiles is Baluchistan... It is unclear whether such textiles might have found their way through down-the-line trade over land or via the Persian Gulf. Such exotic types of textiles would
        > presumably have been prized exchange items" (p. 128).
        >
        > The case of date palms is also mentioned: "...date palms were for some millennia restricted to Eastern Arabia, Iran and probably Baluchistan before they spread westwards. Further west, the earliest dates occur in southwest Libya just before 1000 BC..." (p. 136).
        >
        > Authors also point out that the word for Meluhha was used in Mesopotamia to describe different places in different periods: "...Meluhha has referred sometimes to a place in the region of the Indus River, and (much later) to somewhere in Africa..." (p. 136).
        >
        > There is also the extraordinary case of Indian zebu being transported to Africa:
        >
        > "An intringing, if still speculative, implication would be that the techniques for transporting large fauna by boat from South Asia were already established by the early second millennium BC. Such means would have been important for the transport of Indian zebu bulls, a few of which had probably reached the African savannas by this time" (p. 140).
        >
        > And the case of maritime activity in early Bronze Age reaching Mediterranean:
        >
        > "...these networks linked southern Mesopotamia, the eastern littoral and islands of the upper and central Persian Gulf (Bahrain and Failaka), the Oman peninsula, eastern Iran and the Western littoral of the Indian subcontinent... and were complemented by riverine and overland routes that connected the coastal sites and ports to a rich array of both nearby and distant inland sites (evidence for trade connections is found as far away as the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia...)" (p. 142).
        >
        > But Boivin and Fuller themselves paradoxically also point out that:
        >
        > "Neither textual nor archaeological evidence provide much, if any, sign of any of the Mesopotamians having reached India during the Bronze Age. With the Harappans, on the other hand, there are good indications of maritime capability, with texts indicating their physical presence in the Persian Gulf, and geography favouring the emergence of maritime savoir-faire, especially for the Kutch and
        > Saurashtra regions...But the role of the Harappans should not be
        > over-emphasised. There are no signs to date, as Cleuziou and Possehl have emphasised, for formal Harappan ports, with quays, warehouses, broad roads and/or trade good detritus, and it seems likely that, contrary to some of the implications in the literature, Harappan trade with regions to the west was always relatively informal, involving small-scale ports and local communities" (p. 164).
        >
        > Southeastern Arabia trade with India since the early third millennium BC is however highlighted by the authors: "Nonetheless, imported shell and other materials reinforce the impression, garnered from textual sources, that maritime trade with the still emergent Indus Valley civilisation began at an earlier date than we currently have good archaeological evidence for..." (p. 144).
        >
        > Authors also mention the interesting early contacts between India and Egypt: "Around 1200 BC, the first pepper in the Egyptian record, positively identified from the dried fruits in the nostrils of the mummy of Ramses II... This is the first indication of possible contact between Egypt and India, though by what route remains unclear" (p. 153, 154). Although contacts with Egypt could be even earlier as zebu transport to Africa, already mentioned, could have crossed through Egypt.
        >
        > Boivin and Fuller also point out the no less important continuity between Harappan and Late Harappan trade with Persian Gulf: "Evidence for Harappan trade continues into the Late Harappan period, as evidenced by both archaeological finds and textual sources like Mari letters... As discussed below, and indicated
        > by ceramic parallels, trade was by this point clearly with the Late Harappan communities of Gujarat..." (p. 155).
        >
        > Boivin and Fuller cite other earlier authors in their work which I avoid in quotations in order to be clearer. There are also other passages related to Indo-Arabian trade not mentioned above that you can read in the original. This work is useful despite the tendency of the authors to reduce the importance of some India's achivements and highlight others, as is current in many western scholars that try to show a false image of impartiality.
        >
        > Best regards,
        >
        > Carlos
        >
        >
        > --------------------END FORWARDED MESSAGE---------------------------
        >
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