Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Last week, The National ran an article on archaeological work at Buraimi in Oman, which is believed to be the site of medieval Islamic Tuw'am:
For Power the site is important not just because it is at risk, but also because he believes it sheds light on a period when a local, and now largely overlooked, Wajihid dynasty held sway over a vast territory that extended from the Arabian Gulf to Yemen and all the way to Multan, in modern day Pakistan...
"It’s when the Abbasids established Baghdad as a crucible of Islamic civilisation and created new forms of material culture that were exported across the Indian Ocean and beyond – and that’s what we have here in Buraimi."
One of the main questions for Power and his collaborators on the project, such as Nasser Al Jahwari of Sultan Qaboos University, is to establish the age and size of the site.
“A mosque and a falaj and a cluster of quite large and well-built houses, a reasonable ninth or 10th century village, was found on the site of the new Sheikh Khalifa Mosque in Al Ain by Dr Walid Al Tikriti, and our site lies directly to the east of that.
“There is the possibility that they are a part of the same settlement. The question is whether this is a low-density settlement spread out over a large area with lots of little discrete villages and hamlets or a single settlement that’s quite densely built up all the way through.”
Power also notes the significance of Tuw'am (or Tawam) going back to pre-Islamic times, and says that the identification of Tuw'am with the al-Ain/Buraimi oasis cluster is conjecture.  I admit I am guilty of assuming it was more than that.  Power's study of the primary sources has led him to believe that it was actually a regional term extending all the way to the sea, with a specific settlement by that name within it.  This is a well-known pattern in Gulf history, seen in the components of the UAE in modern times and also in Kazima, the medieval Persian of Kuwait which I have been involved in researching.

The article, though, is unusually well-done for media reporting on historical scholarship.

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