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Strontium isotope evidence for a trade network between southeastern Arabia and India during Antiquity

Abstract : Cotton (Gossypium sp.), a plant of tropical and subtropical origin, appeared at several sites on the Arabian Peninsula at the end of the 1st mill. BCE-beginning of the 1st mill. CE. Its spread into this nonnative, arid environment is emblematic of the trade dynamics that took place at this pivotal point in human history. Due to its geographical location, the Arabian Peninsula is connected to both the Indian and African trading spheres, making it complex to reconstruct the trans-continental trajectories of plant diffusion into and across Arabia in Antiquity. Key questions remain pertaining to: (1) provenance, i.e. are plant remains of local or imported origin and (2) the precise timing of cotton arrival and spread. The ancient site of Mleiha, located in modern-day United Arab Emirates, is a rare and significant case where rich archaeobotanical remains dating to the Late Pre-Islamic period (2nd-3rd c. CE), including cotton seeds and fabrics, have been preserved in a burned-down fortified building. To better understand the initial trade and/or production of cotton in this region, strontium isotopes of leached, charred cotton remains are used as a powerful tracer and the results indicate that the earliest cotton finds did not originate from the Oman Peninsula, but were more likely sourced from further afield, with the northwestern coast of India being an isotopically compatible provenance. Identifying the presence of such imported cotton textiles and seeds in southeastern Arabia is significant as it is representative of the early diffusion of the crop in the region, later to be grown extensively in local oases.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 3:47:29 PM
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Saskia E. Ryan, Vladimir Dabrowski, Arnaud Dapoigny, Caroline Gauthier, Éric Douville, et al.. Strontium isotope evidence for a trade network between southeastern Arabia and India during Antiquity. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2021, 11 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41598-020-79675-3⟩. ⟨hal-03116675⟩

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