YALE INTERASIA ONLINE LECTURE
Sweet water on the sea route to China. Forgotten technologies of mobility in the Indian Ocean world.
Professor Elizabeth Lambourn
Professor, Material Histories, De Montfort University
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Availability of sweet water was the foundation stone of maritime provisioning – and, by implication, route planning – on all but the shortest voyages. Without it, maritime trade and all other forms of seaborne exchange and circulation were effectively impossible, yet water sources and technologies of transportation have been comparatively neglected in Indian Ocean scholarship. This paper weaves data from the ninth century section of an Arabic merchant manual, the Akhbār al-sīn wa-l-hind (Accounts of China and India) with recent shipwreck evidence to examine technologies of water transportation and to propose some preliminary quantitative estimates of the volumes circulating onboard vessels at the time.
Elizabeth Lambourn is Professor of Material Histories at De Montfort University (Leicester, UK). A historian of South Asia and the Indian Ocean world she is committed to the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural study of medieval history. Originally trained in Art History, she now spends a lot of her time reading, and talking to, anthropologists, archaeologists, and textual scholars; her work engages equally with texts about ‘things,’ and with texts as material ‘things.’ She has published widely on varied aspects of the circulation of artefacts, animals, people, and ideas around the Indian Ocean area. Her monograph Abraham’s Luggage. A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World was published in 2018 with Cambridge University Press.