Pearls, gemstones, ivory, and spices are a sampling of the goods traded in the port city of Sīrāf, located on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Sīrāf was a bustling hub of commerce between A.D. 800 and 1050, serving as a maritime trading center for ships carrying luxury goods to the Middle East from India, China, South-East Asia, East Africa, and the Red Sea. Its inhabitants were notably wealthy and their economy thrived for two centuries until a series of events, including earthquakes, led to its decline. Between 1966 and 1973 excavations were conducted in Sīrāf to “learn as much as possible about Sīrāf and its place in the network of maritime trade described in the literature of the day.” The excavations were sponsored by the British Institute of Persian Studies and with full co-operation from the Archaeological Service of Iran. Eventually the project evolved to investigate “the entire development of the site from the Sasanian period to the present day.” Dr. David Whitehouse, former Corning Museum of Glass executive director, was a member of the excavation team.
The Museum is excited to announce that the Sīrāf excavation notebooks of Dr. Whitehouse have been digitized and are available to the public. The five notebooks, covering 1968–1973, contain his working notes and document excavation finds. The notebooks are: Sīrāf 1968-9, B site and finds: general notes; Sīrāf 1969-70, pottery and small finds; Sīrāf 1970-1, site J and building A, draft report; Sīrāf 70-1, finds incl. pottery; and Sīrāf 1972-3, notes on the pottery. These notebooks are part of the David Whitehouse collection in the Corning Museum of Glass Institutional Archive.
The importance of the Sīrāf excavations cannot be overstated, it “is one of the largest archaeological sites of any period on the Iranian coast of the Persian Gulf…Its wealth and the activities of its merchants were legendary; indeed, Sīrāfi captains were sources of information that inspired some of the most famous of all travelers’ tales: the stories of Sindbad.”
Whitehouse, David, Donald S. Whitcomb, and T.J. Wilkinson. Siraf: History, Topography and Environment. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2009.
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