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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 30, 2021

Reading Rasūlid Maps: An Early 14th-Century Geographical Resource

Daniel Martin Varisco
From the journal Der Islam


While there is a tradition of Islamic world maps and geographic depictions of direction to the Kaʿba in Mecca, relatively few detailed maps of individual Islamic realms have been studied. In an early 14th-century tax ledger compiled for the Rasūlid sultan al-Malik al-Muʾayyad Dāwūd (d. 721/1321), there is a map of the fortresses (ḥuṣūn), major towns, and ports of the areas controlled and taxed, as well as individual maps of Aden, Taʿizz, al-Janad, Dhamār, al-Shiḥr, and several wadis. Given the context of the text, Irtifāʿ al-dawla al-Muʾayyadiyya, as a tax register, some of the maps probably serve a functional purpose. But how should such maps be read against the lists of important locations in other Rasūlid sources and earlier compilations, such as Yāqūt’s Muʿjam al-buldān compiled a century earlier or al-Hamdānī’s 10th-century Ṣifat jazīrat al-ʿArab? In this article I analyze the range of locations, how they are iconically represented, the accuracy of their relative locations, and their links to other Rasūlid lists. In what ways do these maps better illustrate how the Rasūlids viewed their own realm, which in the early 14th century was a rival of the Egyptian Mamluks and a major player in the Red Sea/Indian Ocean trade network? Finally, how does this unique set of maps fit other Islamic maps in the tradition that stems back several centuries before?

Online erschienen: 2021-03-30
Erschienen im Druck: 2021-04-01

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