The strength of Professor Varisco’s work lies in his combination of ethnographic fieldwork among highland Yemeni farmers with an extensive study of medieval Arabic manuscripts on folk astronomy and agriculture. The opening articles discuss the astronomical concept of the ’lunar stations’ in pre-Islamic Arabia and as developed in Arab astronomy and almanac lore; subsequent ones expand on the significance of this for an agricultural society, and examine a unique corpus of Yemeni agricultural almanacs, dating from the Rasulid period (13th-15th centuries) to the present. A further theme is that of traditional Yemeni agriculture, with studies on irrigation practices, plough cultivation, sorghum production, and indigenous plant protection methods, as well as the use of star calendars for seasonal markers.
'Medieval Folk Astronomy and Agriculture in Arabia and the Yemen is a noteworthy addition to the growing literature on theoretical and applied sciences in Middle Eastern Studies…Students of Yemeni rural life and folk beliefs can…gain much from Varisco’s work…scholars will benefit from this collection.' Bulletin of the Middle East Studies Association, No. 33
Contents: Preface; Arab Folk Astronomy: The origin of the anwa in Arab tradition; The anwa stars according to Abu Ishaq al-Zajjaj; The rain periods in pre-Islamic Arabia; Traditional Yemeni Agriculture: Water sources and traditional irrigation in Yemen; Sayl and ghayl: the ecology of water allocation in Yemen; The ard in highland Yemeni agriculture; The production of sorghum (dhurah) in highland Yemen; Indigenous plant protection methods in Yemen; The agricultural marker stars in Yemeni folklore; Al-Hisab al-zira’i fi urjuzat Hasan al-’Affari. Dirasat fi al-taqwim al-zira’i al-Yamani; Agricultural time reckoning in the Urjuza of Hasan al-’Affari: a study on the Yemeni agricultural almanac; Medieval Yemeni Agriculture: Medieval agricultural texts from Rasulid Yemen; A royal crop register from Rasulid Yemen; An anonymous 14th-century almanac from Rasulid Yemen; A Rasulid agricultural almanac for AH 808/AD1405-6; Al-Tawqi’at fi taqwim al-zira’a al-majhul min asr muluk Bani Rasul (Details from an anonymous agricultural almanac of the Rasulid period; Index.
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