Alessandro Ghidoni

Department: Arab and Islamic Studies
Discipline: Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Islamic Archaeology

Project Summary

The Ship Timbers from the Islamic Site of al-Balid: A Case Study of Sewn-Plank Technology in the Indian Ocean


In my thesis, I undertake the most comprehensive and interdisciplinary analysis of Islamic era sewn-boat technology in the Indian Ocean to date, with a particular emphasis on the sewn-planks discovered at al-Balid, southern Oman. The timbers belonging to various boats and ships either repaired or broken down at the site, were recycled as construction elements in the buildings of the citadel of the Islamic port. My study provides a technical analysis of the al-Balid timbers in a comparative context. First, the pieces are examined from a material perspective by analyzing the technical details of each plank and identifying their material composition. Second, the timbers are then compared with extant textual, iconographic, ethnographic, archaeological, and experimental archaeological evidence. Finally, this study contextualizes the al-Balid timbers within the broader material networks in the Indian Ocean during the medieval Islamic period. In doing so, it increases our knowledge of Indian Ocean maritime technology and of the people who built these historically important vessels. 


Supervisory Team

Prof. Timothy Insoll (Al-Qasimi Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology) 

Dr. John P. Cooper (Senior Lecturer in Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture)

Wider Research Interests

Maritime Archaeology, Indian Ocean watercraft and maritime communities, boatbuilding and seafaring, sewn boats, Bronze Age boatbuilding, Medieval boatbuilding and seafaring. 

Authored Publications/Reports

Alessandro Ghidoni (2006) La Nave di Magan. Ricostruzione di una imbarcazione di 5000 anni fa, La Rassegna del Bitume, 54, 27-34

Vosmer, T., Staples, E., Belfioretti, L. and Ghidoni, A. (2011) The Jewel of Muscat Project: reconstructing an early ninth-century CE shipwreck., Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 41, 411-424

Vosmer, T., Staples, E., Weissman, N., and Ghidoni, A. (2014) The Battīl and Zārūqah of Musandam, Oman, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 43(2), 413-435

Blue, L., Al-Jahwari, N., Staples, E., Giorgio, L. and Ghidoni, A (2013) Maritime Footprints: Examining the Maritime Cultural Landscape of Masirah Island, Oman, Past and Present, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 44, 53-68

Pavan, A., Fusaro, A., Visconti, C., Ghidoni, A., and Annucci, A (2018) Archaeological works at the fortified castle of Al Baleed (husn Al Baleed), southern Oman: preliminary results from the fieldwork and the study of the materials, Egitto e Vicino Oriente, XLI, 211–234

Ghidoni, A. (2019) Building Pâris’ Beden Seyad: a replica of the Omani 19th‐century sewn fishing vessel, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 48(2), 360–376

Pavan, A., Fusaro, A., Visconti, C., Ghidoni, A., and Annucci, A (2020) New Researches at The Port of Al Balid and Its Castle (Husn): Interim Report (2016-2018), The Journal of Oman Studies, 172–199

Cooper, J.P., Ghidoni, A., Zazzaro, C., and Ombrato, L. (2020) Sewn boats in the Qatar Museums collection, Doha: baggāras and kettuvallams as records of a western Indian Ocean technological tradition, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 44(3), 371–405