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The Value of Agarwood. Reflections Upon Its Use and History in South Yemen

Jung, Dinah

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Abstract

Agarwood is a scented heartwood produced by a number of mainly Aquilaria species. It has been highly valued among various populations of Asia. Specifically in South Yemen, agarwood presents the key material of the current perfumery arts; it is the ingredient of many products, and people take great care to have it on hand for the most special occasions. The paper discusses the factors which turned agarwood from an originally uncommon good of minor interest into such a significant and cherished one. The olfactory character and medicinal qualities of the resinous product do not yet provide a satisfactory explanation for this aesthetic development. A fruitful basis for the rising esteem of agarwood was given in the establishment of Islam, due to the general attention to perfumery matters in the holy literature. Specifically, agarwood became important in South Yemen with the expansion of the operating range of the coastal population. Experiencing the fragrance of agarwood supports an awareness of Islamic values and noble origin, as they were defined in the cultural exchange with the Eastern world of Islam and the Indian Ocean Rim over the course of the centuries. In order to maintain availability of this coveted good, sustainable management of the threatened natural resource is requisite.

Item Type: Preprint
Date Deposited: 30. May 2011 11:34
Date: 2011
Faculties / Institutes: Philosophische Fakultät > Institut für Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens
Subjects: 390 Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords: perfume , history , Yemen , Islam , Indian Ocean
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