Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
By: DANIEL T. POTTS
(per. Jazira-ye Qešm); the largest
Iranian island (ca. 122 km long, 18
km wide on average, 1,445 sq km) in the Persian
Gulf, about 22 km south of Bandar-e 'Abbâs (q.v.). Separated from the
mainland by the straits of Khurân (Clarence Strait), Qeshm runs virtually
parallel to the Persian coast between Bandar-e 'Abbâs in the east and
Bandar-(e) Lenga in the west (Sailing directions for the Persian Gulf,
p. 123; Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, p. 155).
The toponomy of the island has varied greatly over time. Nearchus
referred to an island near the mouth of the Persian Gulf as Oaracta (e.g.,
Geog. 16.3.7; Pliny, Natural History 6.98), where, in
Arrian's account, Nearchus was shown the tomb of Erythras (Goukowsky, p.
120), after whom the Erythraean Sea was thought to have been named (Arrian,
Indica 27; cf. Oracta, Ooracta, Doracta).
Portuguese sources refer to the island as Queiximi/ Queixome /Queixume (Tomaschek,
p. 48; cf. Quesomo in Jean de Thevenot, and the Kichmichs of
Sir John Chardin [Curzon, II, p. 410]), in which we easily recognize Qeshm.
They also mention Broco/Boroch/Beroho/Brocto (Tomaschek, p. 48),
which scholars have long (e.g., d'Anville, p. 149; Stein) identified with
Greek Oaracta. (Curzon, II, p. 410, noted a village called "Brukth/Urukth"
The Akhbâr al-Sin wa'l-Hend (851 CE) mentions the island of
Abarkâwân in the eastern Persian Gulf, between Sirâf and Muscat (Sauvaget,
p. 7). This is identical to the island of Bani Kâwân, assigned by Abu Eshâq
Estakhri to the district of Ardašir-khorra (q.v.; Estakhri, pp. 106-7),
also known to Estakhri, Mas'udi and Ebn Hawqal as Lâft, (Schwarz, p. 82,
n. 13). For Yâqut (Schwarz, p. 83) the isles of Kâwân and Lâft (or Lâfet)
were one and the same; and Lâft survives as the name of the second
largest town, historically, on Qeshm (Curzon, II, p. 411). According to
Balâdori, Abarkâwân/Qeshm was reckoned part of Kermân, rather than Fârs,
prior to the Islamic conquest, a point made plausible by the fact that
when 'Othmân b. al-'As landed there at the beginning of the Islamic
conquest, he encountered a margrave of Kermân (Schwarz, p. 83). Later
lexicographers explained Abarkâwân as a corruption of Jazira-ye gâvân,
(cow island); this is a folk etymology, which is reflected in Tabari's
story of a commander in Khorasan who accused his soldiers of having ridden
only cattle and donkeys on the isle of Banu Kâwân before he had turned
them into competent cavalrymen (Schwarz, p. 83). Ebn Khordâdbeh
identified the island of Banu Kâwân as a station between Kish
and Hormuz on the sea-route to India and China and described its
inhabitants as belonging to the 'Ebâdi sect (Sprenger, p. 79; Schwarz, p.
The natural resources of Qeshm include salt (the purest in the Persian
Gulf [Pilgrim, p. 129]), naphtha, and firewood.
In 1989 the Qeshm Free
Trading Zone was established with the goal of
attracting substantial infrastructure investment to expand industrial,
banking and tourist facilities. With a population of around 85,000, Qeshm
now has four designated industrial areas, half a dozen large towns, and
over 50 villages. Qeshm is located in the midst of two of Iran's largest
natural gas fields.
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