This circular token is finely engraved with an image of a camel. The camel is an Arabian dromedary depicted with simple lines in a walking position, its head raised facing to the right. The animal is harnessed and carries a sack on its hump.
This token is one of many examples coming from the Cirebon shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia, however their destination remains unknown. Although faded in colour, this token would originally have been a deep blue with flecks of gold as it is made from lapis lazuli. This expensive stone was found only in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, in the Sar-i-Sang Shortugai mine.
In 628 CE, the inhabitants of the administrative district of Al Hajar, which included the geographical area of present-day Bahrain, al-Hasa in eastern Saudi Arabia and Qatar, joined the new religion of Islam. The territory of Qatar was occupied mainly by two tribal groups, the Tamim and the Abd al-Qays.
During the early Abbasid period Qatar was famous, even at the court of Baghdad, for its red-dyed woollen coats, horse breeding and pearls. The entire population of the region benefited greatly from the maritime traffic passing through the Gulf, from Basra to China via India and Southeast Asia, as demonstrated by the large number of archaeological sites particularly in the northern region of Qatar.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT - REGION/GULF/WORLD
In 2003 a shipwreck was discovered 90 nautical miles (160 kilometres) off the coast of Cirebon, a port city in Indonesia. Referred to now as the Cirebon shipwreck, it had been lost in the Java Sea for over 1000 years. The wreck was found by local fishermen whose nets caught some of the Chinese ceramics originally onboard. Subsequently, the wreck was excavated by archaeologists in 2004-2005, yielding thousands of pieces of glassware, jewellery, ceramics and various trinkets.
Half of the findings have been acquired by Qatar Museums and will feed into ongoing research into 10th-century trade routes between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The ship’s final voyage can be traced back to 970 CE based on copper coins from the Chinese kingdom of Nan Han (917-971 CE) that were onboard. It is believed the ship was engaged in long coastal voyages from China to the Middle East, via Southeast Asia and India.
PUBLICATIONS AND RESEARCH
BARI, H., 2014, The Cirebon Wreck, dated around 970, its meaning and its presentation [Unpublished report, Pearl and Jewellery Collection, Qatar Museums].
HARANSTININGSIH, N., WIBISONO, S., MIKSIC, J. 2010, Catalogue of the Cirebon Wreck, Sunken Treasures from the Tenth Century (Five Dynasties or Early Northern Song), PNAS BKMT, The Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta.
LIEBNER, H. H. 2014, The Siren of Cirebon. A Tenth-Century Trading Vessel Lost in the Java Sea, PhD University of Leeds.