This lārīn/ ṭawīla coin is made of a bent and flattened copper alloy wire that resembles tweezers or a fishhook. The term lārīn derives from the Iranian city of Lār. Ṭawīla refers to the elongated shape of the folded coin, as ‘tawil’ means ‘long’ in Arabic.
The lārīn circulated across the Indian Ocean to Arab/ Ottoman (Baṣra, al-Aḥsā'), Iranian (Hormuz, Bandar-i'Abbas), Indian (Dabul) and Sri Lankan ports. It was inscribed in both Perso-Arabic and Indian characters, while its shape and size may have made it a cosmopolitan exchange measure.
These very small and seemingly insignificant objects are remarkable as evidence of trans-regional exchange in late medieval and early modern Qatar. This coin was found at a campsite in the southwest of Qatar.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT QATAR
Middle Islamic Period 1000–1600 CE
Only a few rare pieces of pottery testify to a human presence in Qatar throughout the 11th to 16th centuries. An Ottoman historical source from the mid-16th century refers to a major pearl fishing town in Qatar. This may have been the site of Al Huwaila, which was considered in later centuries to have been the former capital of Qatar. Surface pottery from an unexcavated portion of the remaining site supports this dating. There are also traces of Middle Islamic occupation at Al Ruwaida.
The Ottomans considered Qatar to be part of their province of Al Hasa, but only ruled it through a local tribe occupying both areas. By the mid-16th century the Portuguese had a fortress somewhere in Qatar, according to their maps and written records, and part of the fortifications of Al Ruwaida resemble Portuguese military architecture. Meanwhile, the Bedouin inhabitants of Qatar would have continued to occupy the desert with their herds, as they had done for centuries, leaving little behind them in the form of material remains.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT - REGION/GULF/WORLD
With the decline of the vast and powerful Abbasid caliphate towards the end of the 10th century, several smaller states emerged in the Islamic world. Most of these continued to show nominal loyalty to the surviving Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad, but in Egypt the rival Fatimid caliphate arose and became a powerful military force with vast economic resources. For a while the focus of maritime trade shifted from the Gulf to the Red Sea. Further dynasties rose and fell in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
In the 15th century a new power arose in the form of the Ottoman Empire, which had taken control of most of north Africa and the Middle East by the mid-16th century, as well as much of coastal Arabia. In the 16th century, however, they found serious rivals in the Gulf and Indian Ocean from the Portuguese and other European powers, who had established direct sea routes from Europe around Africa.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
GERBER, C. et al., 2012, South Qatar Survey Project: Final Report for the 2012 Season, A Qatari-German Joint Archaeological Fieldwork of the QMA (Doha) and the DAI (Berlin).
GUPTA, V., 2016. “The Deccan Watershed: The Potential of Numismatics for Peninsular India,” in American Numismatic Society Magazine 4, pp. 28–37.
WOOD, H., 1934, The Gampola Larin Hoard. The American Numismatic Society, New York.
HUSAIN, M. K., 1967, “The Silver Larins” in The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 29, pp. 54–72.
POTTS, D. T., 1991, “Six copper Tawilah from northeastern Arabia,” in Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 2, pp. 196–207.