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Publisher Description

Hundreds of paper fragments from the early thirteenth century written by participants in the India trade have been discovered in excavations in a warehouse at the Red Sea port of Qusayr (hereafter: Quseir) since 1978. In light of the momentous contribution of this commerce to medieval economy, this find is potentially of major significance for researching the Indian Ocean trade in general and Red Sea commerce in particular. It is a most welcome addition to the limited quantity of manuscripts, mostly still unpublished, available for studying this activity. The documents from the Cairo Geniza identified by the late S. D. Goitein are the main source for research on the medieval India Ocean trade and its extensions in the Mediterranean. Goitein collected over four hundred manuscripts that deal with broad aspects of what he called the India trade. His unfinished study, tentatively entitled "India Traders of the Middle Ages" (for the sake of brevity, the "India Book"), is currently being supplemented and prepared for publication by this reviewer. The writers of the Geniza documents and the Quseir fragments were participants in the same commercial enterprise. Members of both groups wrote in Middle Arabic, roughly during the same period. There are nevertheless major differences between the two collections of manuscripts. The obvious distinctions include the alphabet, the religious affiliation of the writers and the geographical setting. One of the underlying hypotheses of Goitein's Geniza studies, elaborated especially in his six-volume A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1967-93), is that the phenomena depicted in these documents apply not only to the Jewish society based in Egypt but also to the Islamic milieu in general.

July 1
American Oriental Society

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