Boat and ship engravings at Al Zubarah, Qatar: the dāw exposed?
Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies
On-going excavations at the site of the 18th–19th century walled town of Al Zubarah, Qatar, have uncovered a number of engravings of seagoing craft etched into the dry plasterwork of buildings within the settlement. The engravings are essentially graffiti, carved into the interiors of rooms without aesthetic reference to the original decorative schema of their settings. The resulting images are of varying sophistication and detail — dependent, no doubt, on the skill and inclination of their executors. While the crudest images are rudimentary outlines of hulls, others show detail that demonstrates the familiarity of their creators with boat construction and type — not surprising in a settlement whose raison d’être was the livings to be made from the sea. This iconographic vestige provides an insight into the types of vessel their creators used and encountered, and allows us to venture our own identifications of them. It also prompts us to reflect on the nature of the relationship between Al Zubarah’s some-time residents and the sea: the vessels depicted are for the most part a mixture of ocean-going types built within the Gulf or western Indian Ocean region. One, however, is of a European naval vessel, perhaps suggesting the shadow of British imperial power in the Gulf. Finally, the process of identification of these watercraft inspires renewed reflection on the word ‘dhow’ and its variants, from both a typological and an etymological perspective; these new reflections are presented at the end of this paper.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Archaeopress
Vol. 45, pp. 35 - 48
Place of publication