A Tale of Two Ivories: Elephant and Walrus

Matthew Elliott Gillman


This essay offers a short story about long distance trade during the “global” middle ages. It emerges as a response to two seemingly unrelated puzzles: one, the role of walrus ivory in the Norse Atlantic economy; the other, the origins of a mysterious material known in Arabic sources as khutū. Although debated within distinct specializations, these problems have been approached through mirrored argumentation. In one, walrus is seen as being in economic competition with elephant; in the other, khutū seems specifically distinct from the pachyderm.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/etfvii.5.2017.18314

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