Boats, horses, and moorings: maritime activities at al-Balīd in the medieval period
Keywords:al-Balīd, Medieval maritime trade, Indian Ocean watercraft, Maritime activities, Horse trade
The importance of the medieval city of al-Balīd and its harbour was mentioned in many different sources, and mirrored by a large number of finds and pottery that confirm a primary role of the port as a pivotal hub in Indian Ocean trade during the pre-modern Islamic period (tenth–fifteenth century AD). This paper will examine maritime activities at al-Balīd from a different perspective, combining recent data from the study of ship timbers discovered at the site with the archaeological record, along with evidence of possible harbour facilities.
The study of the ship timbers has provided invaluable information about the technology, size, material, type, and function of the watercraft involved in the trade at al-Balīd. The reuse of these timbers in a terrestrial context also alludes to a variety of activities carried out at the site, such as boatbuilding, maintenance, repair, and salvaging. Collectively, this data yields useful insights into the relationship between the different vessels operating at al-Balīd and the structure of the site itself, mainly in connection with one of the most lucrative commercial activities at the port city — the trade of Arabian horses.
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