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8 | 2017
Le cheval dans la péninsule Arabique

The horse in the Arabian Peninsula

Horses have long been an essential component of the identity of the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. Nevertheless, neither the date of its introduction in the Peninsula nor the origins of the Arabian breed can be agreed upon. What is more, many questions remain unanswered regarding the role played by horses in the Arabian Peninsula and beyond after the advent of Islam. These gaps in our current knowledge stimulate the discussion; yet they also bear the risk of shifting from a scientific discourse to an ideological one, particularly in such a region as the Arabian Peninsula. This was especially the case with the recent discovery of equid statues on the Neolithic site of al-Maqar in Saudi Arabia, which was prematurely considered the earliest testimony of horse breeding and horse riding in the world.

We need to stand back and consider the data as they are. In this respect, the purpose of this 8th issue of Arabian Humanities is to give an overview of the current knowledge on:

-          The introduction of the horse to Arabia (Ch. Robin and S. Antonini);

-          The origin of the Arabian breed (S. Olsen);

-          Horse iconography in Arabian rock art (Ch. Robin and S. Antonini; S. Olsen) and in South Arabian art (S. Antonini);

-          The role played by the horse in Rasulid diplomacy (D. Mahoney);

-          The place of the horse in Mamlūk culture (M. Berriah, A. Carayon);

-          The spread of furūsiyya culture in Arabia and beyond (M. Berriah, A. Carayon, D. Mahoney);

-          The emergence of the myth of the Arabian horse in 19th century Arabian Peninsula (F. Pouillon).

In addition, D. Nicolle deals with the specific issue of horse armour from the late pre-Islamic period to the Ottoman Empire (D. Nicolle).

As a preamble, the extensive introductory paper has been an opportunity to go back over the al-Maqar discovery and the ideological issues at stake when dealing with the horse in Arabia.  It is also an opportunity to assess current knowledge of the domestication of the horse and its introduction in Arabia.  Furthermore, this paper presents the role of the horse in warfare, mythology, and Jihad, in the Islamic period and, finally, it also deals with the importance of furūsiyya culture in medieval times and to re-examine the myth of the Arabian horse.

We hope that this introduction provides a proper setting for the following articles. More generally speaking, we hope that this issue of Arabian Humanities will meet the reader’s expectations.

J. Schiettecatte & A. Zouache

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