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The History and Prehistory of Pearling in the Persian Gulf

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The paper presents an analysis and synthesis of historical and archaeological data on pearl fishing in the Persian Gulf. The history of pearling in the region is reviewed, from the earliest possible references to the mid 20th century. Economic data from the 18th–20th centuries CE is analysed in detail, to de fine the economic course of the pearling industry during that time, and assess the impact on human settlement in the region. The archaeological data for pearl fishing are then examined, from the 6th millennium BCE onwards, and compared to the historical evidence. The results of archaeological survey in the Abu Dhabi islands region are then taken as a case study, and changes in settlement patterns are related to the historical trajectory of the pearling industry. It is observed that the regional economy became overwhelmingly dependent on the pearl trade in recent centuries, and was increasingly subject to the demands of the global market. Cette étude présente une analyse et une synthèse des données historiques et archéologiques sur la pêche des perles dans le Golfe arabo-persique. L'histoire de la pêche des perles dans la région est passée en revue, depuis les plus anciennes références connues qui remontent au milieu du 20e siècle. Les données économiques du 18e au 20e siècle sont analysées en détail pour dé finir l'évolution de l'industrie perlière pendant cette période et évaluer son incidence sur le peuplement de la région. Les données archéologiques sur la pêche des perles, examinées depuis le 6ème millénaire avant J.-C., ont été comparées aux données historiques. Les résultats des reconnaissances archéologiques dans les îles de la région d'Abu Dhabi sont alors présentées comme étude de cas et les modi fications de con figuration de l'habitat sont reliées à l'évolution historique de l'industrie perlière. On remarque que l'économie de cette région est devenue presque entièrement dépendante du commerce des perles dans les siècles récents, et qu'elle était de plus en plus assujettie à la demande du marché mondial.


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