This contribution studies the complex arrangement of legal, socio-economic, and technical aspects of the aflāj (s. falaj) water distribution and irrigation system, and how they have shaped communities and built environments in Oman, where the falaj has provided the virtual lifeline of oasis life since the first millennium BCE. Three case studies of falaj communities are presented, Birkat al-Mawz, al-Ḥamrāʾ, and Misfāt al-ʿAbrīyin, which developed during the prosperous early-Yaʿrubi period in the mid-eleventh/seventeenth century. It investigates the extent to which the Ibāḍī-Islamic legal framework allowed flexibility for the local governance, management, and organisation of this ancient system, and its adaptation to diverse demographic, environmental, and emergent socio-political conditions.
Tracking the circulation and exchange of ideas, models, and technology in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages allows for easier comparison between cultural systems, and although different, were not kept in sealed boxes. This is undoubtedly the case with zoomorphic fountains in Byzantium and the Islamicate Mediterranean. Much has been written on the history of fountains from varying perspectives, resulting in literature that is comprehensive and diverse. However, this contribution uniquely employs sources never used before, including poetry, tales from The Arabian Nights, and other fantastic literature, to understand better fountains and their zoomorphic fountainheads, and present a fresh perspective on the subject.
This essay explores the form and function of drinking vessels and their role and meaning in relationship to Arabic and Persian inscriptions within Islamic metalwork. The focus is a thirteenth-century jug from the Aga Khan Museum Collection. While similar jugs have been variously considered as vessels for water, wine, or sherbet, the anonymous epigrapher of the bilingual inscriptions on this example refers to water as the “water of life” (Pers. āb-e ḥayāt). These inscriptions prompt an examination of the relationship between object, image, and text in connection with water, an elixir of long or eternal life, in both a secular setting and a courtly context.
The introduction of new water supply techniques in the Deccan region of India helped make water a crucial factor in local warfare. Improved water supply and conservation influenced military networks, especially at sites located on the strategic frontiers between local polities. Water management also served residential complexes within fortified sites and agricultural improvements in the surrounding arid landscape. This survey of the Naldurg Fort, overlooking a lofty gorge on the Bhima River in the modern state of Maharashtra, examines how builders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries dammed available water to service a strategic frontier military garrison, thereby creating a refreshing environment for a pleasure palace and garden.
All photographs and the survey are by Nicolas Morelle.
Laborers and draft animals played underexamined roles in building and operating the waterworks of Mughal gardens and landscapes. This article analyzes four sources of evidence about water-related work: Mughal paintings; historical texts on the political economy of Mughal waterworks; historical sources assessed in relation to modern estimates of human and animal energy needed to build and operate the waterworks; and historical sources considered in relation to the work of natural waters shaping land and society in material and cultural terms. Taken together, these four lines of inquiry provide a unified framework for research on Mughal waterworks and livelihoods.