seeking Caspian Sea watercraft

Wade Tarzia (tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 12:01:59 -0400

>... In the course of doing this, I
>collected numerous references dealing with early watercraft, and travel
>by water.

--- Actually this reminds me I have a similar question, which I had
forgotten even when answering this "nautical" question two tweeks ago.

I've written a historical fantasy set in 13th century Persia, where the
characters do some roaming on the Caspian Sea. I had to "invent" a
boat-type (based on Persian Gulf types) because I have found no references
to Caspian watercraft, even though I found historical references to
thriving pre-industrial shipping on that sea. The Vikings came down
through the Caspian, we know, but that doesn't help me because I don't know
if they had an impact on boat building -- the Viking style of lapstrake
(clinker) construction and square sails is very different from the Indian
Ocean/Arabian-Pacific tradition of carvel construction and lateen sails,
not to mention fastening techniques.

The other side of Persia, the ocean side, had/has a thriving nautical
tradition, but do I assume that this tradition was used on the Caspian (at
least by ship builders dwelling on Iran's Caspian coast?). The lateen
sails best suited for gentle airs of the Persian Gulf do not seem ideal for
the often tempestuous Caspian, but that's only my guess. I read a
references about Mongols crusing the sea, but on what, built with what?
Was there a leather-boat tradition, similar to the Irsh curragh? The best
wood supply seems to be the Iranian coast, close to the mountains of the
hinterland covered in hardwoods. Though I imagine pines would be available
from the south western coast.

In fact, I can find little about any of the people who lived around the
Caspian *coast*, back then or right now, or about the sea itself, except
for somethng in Russian, which I can't read. Any ideas out there? A minor
detail, and I could get away with educated fantasy, but the
anthropology-side of me wants it right! -- wade