Abstract Detail


Applequist, Wendy [1].

Persistence of use of Amazigh medicinal plants documented by ibn al-Baytar.

Several publications have compared modern ethnobotanical surveys to historical records of medicinal plants from a region. Both substantial turnover and substantial continuity are reported, with many current medicines corresponding to historical medicines and vice versa. However, for the oldest literature it is difficult to ask how many cited species or folk taxa persist in modern use, because some are unidentifiable and the original region(s) of use were often not specified to allow selection of appropriate modern comparators. One of the greatest historical references is the Jami’ al-Mufradat (Treatise on Simples) of ibn al-Baytar, a 13th century CE Andalusian physician and botanist. His work, accessible to Western audiences through Lucien Leclerc’s French translation, collated information from classical Greek and Arab authors and his observations during field research in the Middle East and North Africa. Ibn al-Baytar documented many non-Arabic common names that may serve as evidence of use in a specific region or culture. These included Berber (i.e., Amazigh) names for 44 plants and 3 non-plant products. Taxonomic identity, following Leclerc or Bellakhdar (1997), is tentative or uncertain for many. Of the 44 plants, taxa with which 23 are plausibly identified are reported in recent literature to be used by Amazigh/Berber people, and four more to be used regionally with probably homologous names. In a few cases, where related or similar species are used today under different common names, these provide suggestive evidence regarding which may have been referenced by ibn al-Baytar. Eight putatively identifiable plants have no known current regional use, while two are used but with no clear link to Amazigh people; seven plants are wholly unidentified. Of 29 plants with current regional uses, 22 have recorded common names similar to those reported by ibn al-Baytar. Use of over half of the plants persisted >750 years among the Amazigh, in a context where modern uses cannot be plausibly presumed to be derived from historical literature. A limitation of this approach is that ibn al-Baytar recorded no Berber names for most North African plants, certainly including some that they used (e.g., no names were recorded for Lamiaceae).

1 - Missouri Botanical Garden, William L. Brown Center, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63110, United States

historical botany
ibn al-Baytar.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ETH1, Ethnobotany
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
Time: 3:00 PM
Number: ETH1001
Abstract ID:667
Candidate for Awards:None

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