Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
PERSIAN GULF ISLAND OF KISH
By Daniel T. Potts
Iranian island in the lower Persian Gulf (26037' N, 54000'E), almost 16
x 8 kms and 19.2 kms from the coast. Generally flat, Kish has always been
noted for its palm gardens (so described by Ebn Khordâdhbeh, Ebn al-Mojâwer,
and Yâqut, see Schwarz, p. 88), which are particularly dense on the
island's north side (Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, p. 177). Kish
is mentioned in itineraries, for example on the route from Shiraz to India
and as a further destination appended to the Baghdad to Basra route, as
related by Hamd-Allâh Mostawfi (Le Strange, p. 750, 762) and on the route
from Obolla to India or China, given by Ebn Khordâdhbeh and Edrisi (Sprenger,
p. 79; cf. Aubin, 1969).
Although a Nestorian bishop, David of Kish, is mentioned in 544 CE
1902, p. 680) this almost certainly refers to the Kiš/Kish (Šahr-e
Sabz) in Transoxania (Bosworth, 1986, p. 181) and not to the Persian Gulf
island of the same name (contra Sachau, 1916, p. 972; Streck, 1927,
Reckoned to be part of Ardašir-khorra (q.v.;
Streck, p. 649), Kish
rose to prominence around the middle of the 11th century, when a line of
rulers (amirs, maleks, or khans) of Kish was
established there. The origins of these rulers, or indeed that of the
population in general, are not entirely clear. According to traditions
recounted by Wasásáaf (Šehâb-al-Din Širâzi; d. 1323) and Ebn al-Mojâwer,
Kish may have first begun to be populated by settlers from Sirâf who left
the trading center after its collapse (Aubin, 1959, p. 297).
The antiquities of Kish were first described in detail by Stiffe
pp. 644-49) who particularly noted the main historic settlement on the
north side of the island, Harira, where mounds were strewn with Chinese
porcelain, examples of which he sent to the British Museum. Stiffe also
pointed to the presence of large water cisterns and an underground
irrigation system (qanât). Harira was investigated briefly in 1974
by W. E. Hamilton and David B. Whitehouse, who identified the
remains of numerous buildings, including a mosque, loading bays for boats,
cisterns, kilns, shell middens, and quantities of imported ceramics,
including East Asian exports such as Martaban stonewares, celadon,
porcelain and Ting ware (Whitehouse, 1976, pp. 146-147).
During 1972 the Kish Development Organization was founded with a view to
turning the island into a major tourist resort. In 1989 ministerial
approval was given for the creation of a special industrial trade zone on
Kish and in 1992 the Kish Free Trade Organization was established.
Significant infrastructure investment has now taken place, making Kish an
important tourist destination as well.
J. Aubin, "La ruine de Sîrâf et les routes du Golfe Persique
aux XIe et XIIe sieàcles," Cahiers de civilisation
me‚die‚vale 3, 1959, pp. 295-301. Idem, "La survie de
Shilau et la route du Khunj-o-Fal," Iran 7, 1969, pp.
Tudela, The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, ed.
and tr. Marcus Nathan Adler, London, 1907.
C. E. Bosworth, "Kish," EI2 5, 1986, pp.
J. B. Chabot, "Synodicon orientale ou recueil de synodes
Nestoriens," Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la
Bibliotheàque Nationale 37, 1902, pp.1-685.
W. J. Fischel, "The region of the Persian Gulf and its Jewish
settlements in Islamic times," in Alexander Marx Jubilee
Volume on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, ed. S.
Lieberman, New York, 1950, pp. 203-30.
S. D. Goitein, "Two eyewitness reports on an expedition of the
king of Kish (Qais) against Aden," BSOAS 16, 1954, pp.
Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, 5th ed., Hamburg, Deutsches
Hydrographisches Institut, 1976.
A. Sprenger, Die Post- und Reiserouten des Orients, Leipzig,
G. Le Strange, "Description of Persia and Mesopotamia in the
year 1340 A.D. from the Nuzhat-al-Kulub of Hamd-Allah Mustawfi,
with a summary of the contents of that work," JRAS, 1902,
pp. 49-74, 237-66, 509-36 and 733-84.
N. M. Lowick, "Trade patterns on the Persian Gulf in the light
of recent coin evidence," Near Eastern numismatics,
iconography, epigraphy and history, ed., D.K. Kouymjian, Beirut,
1974, pp. 319-33.
N. M. Lowick, "Further unpublished Islamic coins of the Persian
Gulf," Stud. Ir. 11, 1982, pp. 247-61.
V. F. Piacentini, L'emporio ed il regno di Hormoz (VII - fine XV
sec. d.Cr.), Milan, Memorie dell'Istituto Lombardo-Accademie di
Scienze e Lettere, Vol. 35/1, 1975.
E. Sachau, "Vom Christentum in der
der Königlichen Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist.
Kl. 39, 1916, pp. 958-80.
P. Schwarz, Iran im Mittelalter nach den arabischen Geographen,
vol. II, Leipzig, 1910.
A.W. Stiffe, "Ancient trading centres of the Persian Gulf II.
Kais, or Al-Kais," The Geographical Journal 7, 1895, pp.
M. Streck, "Kais," EI1 2, 1927, pp. 649-51. D.
Whitehouse, "Kish," Iran 14, 1976, pp. 146-47. Idem,
"Maritime trade in the Gulf: The 11th and 12th centuries," World
Archaeology 14, 1983, pp. 328-34.
J. C. Wilkinson, "The Julanda of Oman," Journal of Oman
Studies 1, 1975, pp. 97-108. Ibid, Water and Tribal Settlement
in South-east Arabia, Oxford, 1977.
A.T. Wilson, The Persian Gulf, Oxford, 1928. F. Wüstenfeld,
"Jâcût's Reisen, aus seinem geographischen Wörterbuch
beschrieben," ZDMG 18, 1864, pp. 397-493.
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