Until recently, Basra was not considered as a producer of some of the finest Chinese-inspired porcelain. However recent studies suggest that Basra was in fact a centre of some of the finest luxury wares of the time. Being the port where, in the 9th century, imported Tang stoneware and porcelain were first off-loaded from ships, meant that local potters were exposed to new inspiration, which led to experimentation in their own production techniques.
Science and Technology
Underwater archaeological sites and wreck sites provide important information on the history of nations and mankind. The Gulf of Siam is one such important site, having been a territorial waterway to and from the Malay Peninsula since the 4th and 5th centuries. Despite reasonably stable weather in the Gulf, conditions could be perilous. The number of shipwrecks to be found here, many of which are still intact owing to the relatively good underwater conditions that enable material objects to be preserved, reflects the risks.
The Omani people’s initial interest in the sea in the third century BC was probably a result of the following: Oman’s location at the cross-roads between South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa; its long shorelines; and its safe natural harbours in Muscat, Sohar and Qalhat, which become successful trading posts for maritime trade from and to East and West.
Much research has been done into life and times of the great Chinese navigator, Zheng He, who extended and promoted China’s official maritime trade during the Ming dynasty. Countries that Zheng He visited include: Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, the Philippines, the south Asian sub-continent, as well as Arabia and Africa. However, the bulk of research efforts has focused on Chinese sources and materials and discuss and review the historic geography, including place names and the routes that Zheng He followed.
The maritime routes of the Silk Road were the main porcelain and Spice Roads, as well as direct avenues of contact between the East and the West. Throughout time, maps and charts have reflected the cultural exchanges taking place between the East and the West, including international trade and religious activities Shifts in knowledge, power and culture resulting from the Silk Routes have been captured in a rang of maps, including the Ptolemy World Map (150 AD), the Islamic World Map (1154 AD), the Catalan Atlas (1375), and the Korean World Map 1402.
200 miles north of Karachi lie the remains of the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro, one of the most striking monuments from the dawn of civilisation. Populated from 2500 – 1500 BC, but then abandoned, it was only rediscovered in 1921. However, two serious problems face these magnificent ruins: they are being eroded by the Indus River, and they are being corroded by the salt being brought to the surface as the water table rises dramatically. In fact, since the construction of the Sukkur dam in 1932, the water table has risen by about 13 feet.
Beads and animal remains further attest to the thriving range of maritime activities in Southeast Asia during the pre- and protohistoric periods. Finds also include balangays, which attest to Filipino ingenuity in boat building and seamanship. With significant maritime trading taking place, a wide diversity of goods have been found, including large quantities of non-Philippine low- and high-fired ceramic shards from a variety of objects. The high-fired ceramics can be traced back to China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Middle East.
Beads are some of the few remaining traded objects to be found along the immense silk routes. Like ceramics, they also reveal innovations in the development of their means of production, as well as changing tastes and uses. Four types of beads have been found in Southeast Asia: 1. Indo-Pacific monochrome beads (2nd century BC to 1200 AD), which were made by Indians and Tamils; 2. Segmented, folded and mosaic eye beads (9th – 11th century AD), which originated in the Islamic West; 3.
As the list of merchandise travelling on the Silk Road diversified, so too did the means of transport. By the 1st century AD, maritime routes emerged, reflecting developments in shipbuilding and sailing techniques. Consequently, Thailand came to play a pivotal role with its geographical position in South East Asia and ports on either side of the Malay peninsular.
Thai people began maritime trade with other countries from prehistoric times and developed a sophisticated culture and know-how to sail in vessels. Despite this, Thai sailors were mostly not well known to the outside world. In fact, they rarely travelled far, unlike Chinese and Arab soldiers. This was because of the availability of a wide variety of resources in the Thai region, meaning that there was little necessity to go far afield for other foreign commodities.