Funfundzwanzig arabische Geschaftsdokumente aus dem Rotmeer-Hafen al-Qusayr al-Qadim (7.113. Jh.) [P.QuseirArab. II].

Author:Peters, Rudolph
Position:Book review

Funfundzwanzig arabische Geschaftsdokumente aus dem Rotmeer-Hafen al-Qusayr al-Qadim (7.113. Jh.) [P.QuseirArab. II]. By ANDREAS KAPLONY. Islamic History and Civilization, vol. 109. Leiden: Brill, 2014. Pp. vii + 208, illus. $120, [euro]93.

During the excavations in the sea harbor town of old al-Qusayr between 1978 and 2003, hundreds of paper fragments of Arabic documents were found in one of the buildings (the actual number of documents varies with whoever is writing about them; for Kaplony it is seven hundred [p. 1], while Katherine S. Burke gives the number of 1500 in her 2007 Chicago dissertation ["Archaeological Texts and Contexts on the Red Sea: The Sheikh's House at Quseir al-Qadim," 224]). These fragments turned out to be the remains of a thirteenth-century archive of a family of long-distance traders, who were part of commercial networks stretching from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The originals, of which photographs were made by the excavators, are now kept in the Museum of Ismailia and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. Pioneering work on the texts has been done by Li Guo, who, after two articles (JNES 58 [1999] and 60 [2001]) containing twelve edited and translated documents, published a book with eighty-four of them and a comprehensive introduction (Commerce, Culture and Community in a Red Sea Port in the Thirteenth Century: The Arabic Documents from Quseir [Leiden, 2004]). A great deal of stratigraphical information of the provenance of the paper fragments has been collected by the aforementioned Burke. Archives of documents found in their original sites yield knowledge beyond the information offered in the texts themselves and are rare in Egypt (for a list of such Egyptian archives, see Burke 2007: 211-23). The al-Qusayr collection is therefore beyond doubt of great importance for the social and economic history of Egypt. The importance is even greater because the archeological context has been studied intensively.

So far only about one hundred of the original fragments have been edited and translated. In Funfundzwanzig arabische Geschaftsdokumente aus dem Rotmeer-Hafen al-Qusayr al-Qadim (which, curiously, does not offer twenty-five documents--the last document of the book is numbered 24 and document 13 is missing; see n. 103), Andreas Kaplony has selected, edited, translated, and commented on twenty-three documents of business letters and notes, using the photographs made by the excavators. The...

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