Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 405–417 | Cite as

Cotton cultivation and textile production in the Arabian Peninsula during antiquity; the evidence from Madâ’in Sâlih (Saudi Arabia) and Qal’at al-Bahrain (Bahrain)

  • Charlène BouchaudEmail author
  • Margareta Tengberg
  • Patricia Dal Prà
Original Article


The discovery of seeds and textiles from Gossypium (cotton) in Achaemenian levels of the mid-6th–late 4th century b.c. at Qal’at al-Bahrain, Bahrain and in early 1st millennium a.d. at Madâ’in Sâlih, Saudi Arabia, reveals the role played by the Arabian Peninsula as a textile production centre during the centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian era. Both these sites were situated on important trade routes, overseas (Qal’at al-Bahrain) and overland (Madâ’in Sâlih), and it is likely that at least part of the cotton production was intended for trade, complementing and perhaps competing with other sources of cotton textiles in the contemporary Middle East. In the arid climate of the Arabian Peninsula, cotton was probably grown in association with irrigated date palm gardens where a wide array of other crops was grown, as is shown by the analysis of charred seeds and wood from occupation levels at both sites. The present article places these particular finds in the larger context of cotton cultivation in the Middle East and India.


Cotton Gossypium Arabian Peninsula Textile production Achaemenian Nabatean and Early Islamic periods 



We would like to thank the archaeological teams of Qal’at al-Bahrain (director P. Lombard) and Madâ’in Sâlih (directors D. al-Talhi, L. Nehmé and F. Villeneuve) for their support and interest in our archaeobotanical and textiles research. We are also grateful to the research unit for annual crop systems at the CIRAD (Centre de cooperation internationale en recherches agronomiques pour le développement) in Montpellier, for supplying us with wood from Gossypium arboreum and G. herbaceum as well as to Y. Pauthier at the seed collection of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris for his expertise. Furthermore, we thank N. Giret and L. Nehmé for their corrections and comments on our text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlène Bouchaud
    • 1
    Email author
  • Margareta Tengberg
    • 2
  • Patricia Dal Prà
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, UMR 7041 – Archéologies et Sciences de l’AntiquitéNanterreFrance
  2. 2.University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, UMR 7209 – Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, pratiques et environnementsParisFrance
  3. 3.Département des RestaurateursInstitut National du PatrimoineParisFrance

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