Trade and contacts between southern Arabia and East Asia: the evidence from al-Balīd (southern Oman)
Keywords:al-Balīd, Chinese porcelain, Indian Ocean trade, Islamic trade, Dhofar
Relations between the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula and East Asia are recorded in a number of different written sources. Given that most of the traded goods were perishable, the archaeological evidence is today limited to pottery and coins, although the latter has rarely been found in Arabia. The aim of this paper is to investigate the connections between the two areas, focusing on the recent discoveries from the settlement of al-Balīd (ancient Ẓafār), which flourished along the southern coast of the Sultanate of Oman during the medieval period, reaching its peak between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries AD. Work at the site has recently been resumed and is currently focused on the excavation of the citadel (Husn al-Balīd) and on the study of small finds and pottery, including the collection of ceramics from East Asia. Not only frankincense, silk, Chinese porcelain, and stoneware, but also resins, natural pigments, and exotic animals were travelling at that time between Arabia and East Asia in both directions. Following the written sources and by studying the East Asian imports discovered during the recent excavations at Husn al-Balīd, two periods of major contact have been identified and are discussed below.
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