Knowing the Sea: Thalassographies to Thalassology of the Indian Ocean (up to c. 1500 CE)

  • Ranabir Chakravarti
Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)


This essay attempts to outline the broad patterns of the knowledge about the Indian Ocean, the third largest maritime space in the world, up to c. 1500 CE. A particular form of knowing the sea (an artisanal epistemology) emanated from the experiences of the ship-builders, sailors, captains and navigators, who rarely left any written manual on their understanding of the sea. The paper will look at different nomenclatures of this maritime space (or parts thereof), captured in various literary texts of diverse times and areas, as alternate impressions of thalassography. The epigraphic evidence of Indic seafaring and the Jewish geniza documents portrays the voyager’s views of the Ocean. The transition from thalassography to thalassology of the Indian Ocean coincided with growing thalassocratic aspirations in post-1500 times.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ranabir Chakravarti
    • 1
  1. 1.Jawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia

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