LĀVĀN ISLAND, in the Persian Gulf.

Lāvān is located at lat 26.8˚ N and long 53.3˚ E, six nautical miles west-southwest of Naḵilu and three-quarters of a nautical mile west-northwest of Šatvār islet (United States Hydrographic Office, p. 154; Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut, p. 179).  It is almost 21 km long and about 3.2 km wide.  In Arrian’s account of the voyage of Nearchus, reference is made to “another island, inhabited.”  Arrian noted further that “according to Nearchus, there is pearl fishing here” (Arrian, Indica 38.3-4).  This unnamed island, which lies to the west of Qeshm, has been identified by some scholars with Lāvān (Berghaus, pp. 42-43; Tomaschek, p. 55).

Lāvān has also been identified with the island of Lār(a), Lān, or Allān, off the coast of Fars, mentioned in the medieval geographical sources (Le Strange, p. 261; tr., pp. 281-82; Schwarz, p. 87; Aubin, p. 101).  Yāqut referred to the island of Lār between Sirāf and Qays, with pearl fishery on its coasts, and Ebn Ḵordāḏbeh (p. 61) located the island Lāvān 80 leagues (farsaḵ) from Kharg and 7 from Abrun/Hendrābi (Tomaschek, p. 55).  Portuguese sources used the form Lara, for instance in referring to acts of piracy committed by the Niquelus (people of Naḵilu) in 1581.  They also refer to Lāvān as “Laz” or “Lazao,” the population of which were said to be subject to the king of Hormuz (Floor, p. 94).  Laz is the name of “the principal village of the island,” on the north coast (United States Hydrographic Office, p. 154; Lorimer, II/B, p. 1814).

In early European sources Lāvān was called “Busheab” (Bu Šoʿayb), “Shaikh Shuʿaib” (Šayḵ Šoʿayb), or “Jazirat ash-Shaikh” (Jazirat al-Šayḵ).  The identity of this place with Lāvān was argued by Tomaschek (p. 55), who compared the name of the village of Gōrāt on the south side of Šayḵ Šoʿayb with Qōrt of Lāvān Island (cf. Le Strange, p. 261; Lorimer, II/B, p. 1813; Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut, p. 180).

During the mid-17th century, the Dutch East India Company/Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) director in Iran, Wollebrandt Geleynsen de Jong, conceived a project of renaming local places with Dutch names, and Lāvān was called “Rotterdam” (Slot, p. 157), according to some VOC maps.  In the 18th century, Lāvān belonged to the Howala Arabs (Slot, p. 21).  In the early 19th century Lāvān was a dependency of the Shaikh of Naḵilu (Taylor, p. 21) and its population was estimated at 425 men of the “Aboosemate tribe” (Brucks, p. 594).  It is likely that this name masks that of an Omani group, like the Āl Bu Saʿid or Āl Bu Šāmes.  At this time, the island figures in some of the early 19th century accounts of piracy in the Persian Gulf.  In 1803 the British East India Company packet Alert was forced to land at Lāvān, after which it was attacked by 500 islanders who made off with the pearls and coins that it was carrying, which belonged to the merchants of Basra and Bušehr.  Some days later, Sheikh Raḥma of Naḵilu came and took the remainder of the cargo, since Lāvān was a dependency of his (Taylor, p. 21), leaving the crew with “only two bags of their own rice as provision for 30 or 40 people” (Davies, p. 73). Another incident, involving the Shannon, occurred in 1807 (Davies, pp. 79-80), this time involving the ruler of Ajmān (a small sheikhdom in Oman), Sheikh Rašid b. Ḥomayd al-Noʿaymi.  Conflict between the Qāsemis of Raʾs al-Ḵayma and the sheikh of Naḵilu, however, resulted in an attack in October 1817, by a Qāsemi force that “burnt and plundered the villages at the western part of the island, carrying off all the cattle and killing great numbers of the inhabitants,” according to a report sent by Capt. William Bruce, the resident at Bušehr, to Bombay on 16 October 1817 (Davies, p. 203).  In the late 19th century pearl diving and fishing formed the principal occupations of the inhabitants, who lived in ten villages and numbered about 1,500 souls (Lorimer, II/B, pp. 1813-14). 


Jean Aubin, “Le royaume d’Ormuz au début du XVIe siècle,” Mare Luso-Indicum 2, 1973, pp. 77-179.

Heinrich K. W. Berghaus, Geo-hydrographisches Memoir zur Erklärung und Erlaüterung der reduzirten Karte vom Persischen Golf, Gotha, 1832.

Capt. G. B. Brucks, “Memoir Descriptive of the Navigation of the Gulf of Persia ...” Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government 24, 1856, pp. 532-634.

Charles E. Davies, The Blood-red Arab Flag: An Investigation into Qasimi Piracy, 1797-1820, Exeter, 1997.

Deutsches Hydrographisches Institut, Handbuch des Persischen Golfs, 5th ed., Hamburg, 1976.

Willem Floor, “Who were the Niquelus?” in Dejanirah Couto and Rui M. Loureiro, eds., Revisiting Hormuz: Portuguese Interactions in the Persian Gulf Region in the Early Modern Period, Wiesbaden, 2008,  pp. 89-105.

Francis Mary Hodgson, Persian Gulf Pilot: Comprising The Persian Gulf and Its Approaches from Ras Al Hadd, in the South-West to Cape Monze, in the East, 9th ed., London, 1942, pp. 138-40.

Guy Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, Cambridge, 1905; tr. Maḥmud ʿErfān, as Joḡrāfiā-ye tāriḵi-e sarzaminhā-ye ḵelāfat-e šarqi, Tehran, 1968.

John Gordon Lorimer, Gazetteer of the Persian Gulf, ‘Omān, and Central Arabia II. Geographical and Statistical, Calcutta, 1908.

Paul Schwarz, Iran im Mittelalter nach den arabischen Geographen II, Leipzig, 1910.

B. J. Slot, The Arabs of the Gulf, 1602-1784: An Alternative Approach to the Early History of the Arab Gulf States and the Arab Peoples of the Gulf, Mainly Based on Sources of the Dutch East India Company, Leidschendam, 1993.

R. Taylor, “Extracts from Brief Notes, Containing Historical and Other Information Connected with the Province of Oman...” Selections from the Records of the Bombay Government, New Series 24, 1856, pp. 1-60.

Wilhelm Tomaschek, Topographische Erläuterung der Küstenfahrt Nearchs vom Indus bis zum Euphrat, Vienna, 1890.

United States Hydrographic Office, Sailing Directions for the Persian Gulf, Including the Gulf of Oman, and the Northern Shore of the Arabian Sea As Far Eastward as Ras Muari, 3rd ed., Washington, D.C., 1944.

(Daniel T. Potts)

Originally Published: June 25, 2015

Last Updated: June 25, 2015

Cite this entry:

Daniel T. Potts, "LĀVĀN ISLAND," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/lavan-island (accessed on 25 June 2015).