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Sasanian and Islamic Pottery from Ras al-Khaimah

Classification, chronology and analysis of trade in the Western Indian Ocean

Derek Kennet with a contribution by Regina Krahl
Society for Arabian Studies Monographs
Available soon


During the course of a preliminary surface survey of the island of Hulaylah in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates in 1991, it became clear that, although understanding of the ceramic sequence from the Bronze Age until about the 4th century AD in the northern Emirates was fairly good, very little was known about the sequence from the later Sasanian period until the present day. The princAal aim of this book is therefore to present the classification of Sasanian and Islamic ceramics from the 4th/5th century AD to about the 20th century AD from Ras al-Khaimah as well as the evidence for a proposed chronology. The classification is based on a study of over 124,000 sherds, which includes excavated sequences from the sites of Kush and al-Mataf and numerous surface collections made in and around Ras al-Khaimah. Although reference is made to other published material from the region, on the whole the approach was to allow the Ras al-Khaimah ceramic sequence to ‘speak for itself’ before relating it to studies from other areas where chronologies and distributions may be significantly different. Chapter 5 proposes a new and more precise chronology and periodisation of Sasanian and Islamic ceramics from the Gulf for use in the dating of survey assemblages. The secondary aim of the book is to present a preliminary analysis of the combined quantified sequences from Kush and al-Mataf and to explore some of the results, especially those that have a bearing on the archaeology of Indian Ocean trade and economy. In doingthis comparisons are made with the quantified sequence from Shanga on the East African coast in order to identify trends and developments that are relevant to the Arabian Sea littoral as a whole, as well as to Ras al-Khaimah. This aspect of the work is far from complete and is currently being developed into a fuller study of patterns of trade in the western Indian Ocean based on ceramic distributions and quantified assemblages. This will appear as part of the final publications of the two excavations andas individual research papers. In the meantime it was thought that a rapid and detailed dissemination of the basic data and some preliminary analysis may be of use to others working in the field and may stimulate research and open up new lines of enquiry. A basic users’ guide is provided in Appendix 4 to facilitate the identification of pottery in the field.