Welcoming students back to the Society

SOAS Visit to the RAS:

On the 20th May, we welcomed the students from the MA in Art and Archaeology class at SOAS with Professor Anna Contadini. This was the first group to visit since the Covid lockdown and it was the first time that the students met Professor Contadini in the flesh, as all classes have been conducted virtually. We also used our new hybrid AV system which will permit people to attend live lectures using the Zoom platform and allow speakers to deliver lectures from afar to a live and remote audience at the same time. Two of the students were able to join us via Zoom from Germany and Italy.


A student from SOAS examining one of the manuscripts.


The Director gave a short introduction to the Society stressing its role in the foundation of the study of the languages, literature, history and science of Asia at the beginning of the 19th century in the United Kingdom. The students then visited the library where the librarian Dr. Edward Weech had set out a selection of manuscripts including several Persian manuscripts from the 15th and early 16th centuries illustrated with miniatures. On display was a copy of the ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat (The Wonders of Creation), a cosmology, by Qazvini (1203-1283) c.1475 copied by Muhammad bin Muhammad known as Baqqal (the grocer) and illustrated by ‘Abd al Karim. The manuscript has 148 miniature paintings covering different types of trees, animals, birds, the constellations, islands and angels. Two Qur’ans were also exhibited, one from the Safavid period with an interlinear Persian translation and the other from North Africa copied in the distinctive maghribi script.


Dr. Alison Ohta showcasing one of the manuscripts to the students.


The image below comes from the aforementioned ‘Aja’ib al-Makhluqat which illustrates an image of a Giraffe.


RAS Persian 178, f.365b with the Giraffe highlighted.

In Persian the Giraffe is called: Camel Cow Panther. The head is like the head of the camel, her horns like the horns of the cow, her skin as the skin of the panther, her legs are as belonging to the camel, and their split hooves are like the cattle. She has a very long neck, long forelimbs and short hind legs, and her appearance is close to the camel; the fur resembles that of the leopard, and the tail is like the tail of the gazelle. They say the giraffe descended from the Abyssinian camel, the antelope and the male hyena; namely, it is so that in Abyssinia the hyena males fertilize the camel, and then they bring forth a young one whose shape is between that of the camel and the hyena. Now, when the young of this camel is a male and it copulates with the antelope, it brings the giraffe into the world.


                Professor Anna Contadini with some of the students

We enjoyed welcoming students back to the Society and look forward to organising more visits as government restrictions ease further.

Nominations now open for The Sir Richard Burton Medal:

The Society is pleased to announce that nominations are now invited for The Sir Richard Burton Medal 2021, marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. The medal is awarded to those who have undertaken exploration and research in the East, more particularly in close association with local people, or in difficult circumstances. The successful candidate will be expected to deliver the Burton Memorial lecture at the Society.

Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890)


If you would like to nominate a candidate, please send your reasons for this nomination and a short CV outlining their research interests and achievements. It would also be helpful to receive recommendations supporting the nomination in writing from four to five individuals who are familiar with the work and career of the nominee.

Please submit all correspondence to Alison Ohta, ao@royalasiaticsociety.org with the deadline for submissions on the 30th September 2021.