Aims and Objectives of RQAD

The aim of the project is to read or reconstruct the Southampton Arabic documents found at Quseir and interpret the texts in the context of the excavated site and its artefacts. The findings of this linguistic and historic inquiry will lead to a better understanding of the Red Sea region, in particular the function of the harbour town of Quseir as an entrepôt of the long distance trade and pilgrim traffic.

The Arabic documents have been excavated from (medieval) rubbish heaps and the Islamic necropolis found on the beach at the Quseir al-Qadim site. In a pilot study conducted at the beginning of 2001 they have been tentatively grouped as follows:

  • a) some 300 paper fragments (business and private correspondence)
  • b) numerous fragments of ostrich eggshells with Arabic writing (funerary context)
  • c) other material (pieces of wood, leather and fragmentary ostraca) with Arabic text
  • d) several irregular shaped copper coins with Arabic inscription

Similar documents were recovered during the Chicago excavations (see Preliminary Reports 1979 & 1982) and only 12 texts have recently been studied by Li Guo (Notre Dame University) and J. M. Thayer (New York University). The large corpus (500 paper fragments) remain to be examined. The present study will not include this collection because that would entail a much larger project, however, it is envisaged that they will be consulted. Contact with the University of Chicago has been made and they are most willing to help.