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Title: A quantitative archaeological analysis of ceramic exchange in the Persian Gulf and Western Indian Ocean, AD c.400-1275
Author: Priestman, Seth
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2013
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The aim of the study is to use ceramic finds data to provide a quantitative analysis of long-term patterns of change in the nature, volume and scale of maritime exchange within the western Indian Ocean between AD c.400 – 1275. Ceramic finds data are unique in providing a consistent measurable index of a wider system of commodity exchange in an age where few other dependable sources of systematic economic history survive. By using the available ceramic evidence as a proxy, the aim is to assess the significance of maritime exchange to the broader operation of the major state systems of the Middle East, in particular the Sasanian Empire and the Abbasid caliphate. Two main factors hold back the use of ceramics as a staple evidence base: the legacy of the slow adoption of quantitative finds recording within the Indian Ocean region, and an inability to provide a standardised definition of the same varieties of pottery that occur repeatedly in different regions. This study attempts to redress these issues by applying a single integrated system of ceramic classification to assemblages from East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Information has been collected from the largest possible range of sources by combining data from previously published reports, excavation archives, find databases, and through direct recording of archived finds collections. By presenting the largest ever compilation of quantitative ceramic evidence for the region, it is possible to revaluate a range of key assumptions regarding the operation and significance of Indian Ocean trade. The conclusions that emerge from the analysis are surprising. While the geographic range and overall number of sites engaged with long-distance exchange may have changed through time, there is no notable indication of a significant increase in the volume of ceramic imports in circulation. In addition the products of long-distance exchange continue to represent a small proportion of ceramics in regular use. This does not mean that long-distance exchange was not important. What the findings do point to is the need to develop a more sensitive understanding of how specific elements of the exchange network operated. Where alternative scales of ceramic exchange can be differentiated, it can be shown that regional exchange networks represent a major contributor to the ceramic supply system. In seeking to identify the main drivers of the maritime economy, local and regional exchange networks appear to have been significantly underemphasised and now require specific focus, and to some extent, new archaeological methodologies.
Supervisor: Blue, Lucy ; Peacock, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: CC Archaeology