Patrice Cressier and Sonia Gutiérrez Lloret
The archaeology of al-Andalus did not emerge as a discipline until the end of the 1970s, slightly later than medieval archaeology in Northern Europe. Its spectacular development in subsequent decades goes hand in hand with the revision, sometimes conflicting, of a historiography which traditionally underestimated and sometimes even denied the societal transformations following the Arab-Berber conquest of 711. The principal themes of controversy relate to the degree of transformation that occurred, the existence of ruptures, and the “Oriental” character of the new political, social, and familial structures that emerged. Focusing on the materiality of historical processes, archaeology has made it possible to approach these debates from different perspectives and to give new meaning to the concepts of Islamization and Arabization. This chapter examines some of the most significant research themes in the archaeology of al-Andalus.
This chapter introduces the main ways in which archaeology has been used to investigate Arabia’s past during the Islamic era. While the potential for archaeology within the peninsula cannot be overstated, logistical obstacles and political difficulties have made field research difficult, with the result that it has lagged behind that of other areas in the Middle East. However, recent initiatives in most of the states within the Arabian Peninsula have meant that this is now one of the leading areas for archaeological research into Islamic society and culture. Although the chapter mentions some major recent archaeological projects, the aim is to highlight current trajectories of research rather than provide an exhaustive list of excavation and survey sites. Particular attention has been paid to settlement types, partly to counter ideas that the region was primarily inhabited by Bedouin nomads. The chapter emphasizes different regional traditions to reflect the geographical diversity of Arabia and its connections with other regions. The maritime cultures of the Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean are particularly important in this respect and have meant that Arabia is much less isolated than its often inhospitable interior would suggest.
The extent of Islamic archaeological research in Asia varies regionally. The reasons for this include different research interests as well as political factors. Varied research themes are also found and are considered including urbanism, land and maritime trade, and Islamization processes. The preservation of Islamic archaeological heritage is also a significant issue.
The early Christian archaeology of Asia Minor has recently developed into a discipline devoted to the contextualized study of the material remains of early Christianity. It has characterized Asia Minor as a region where—save some notable exceptions from mortuary contexts in Central Anatolia—the impact of the new faith on local material culture only became tangible in the course of the fourth century. During the fifth and sixth centuries Christianity would eventually conquer urban and rural landscapes through church construction in traditional as well as new foci of public space. At this time it also moved into the private sphere as household objects became decorated with Christian images and symbols.
This chapter explores the Islamic archaeology of Central Asia. Central Asian medieval ities were investigated by Russian researchers since the last quarter of the 19th century but the results of these excavations remain little known in the west. The predominance of historical survey studies, extensive excavations, and an impressive number of publications provides a basis for understanding the organization and distribution of the Islamic Central Asian cities. Their interactions within this vast territory and with the Middle East emerge in contemporary debates. Trade plays a major role in these contacts, and the sedentary-nomadic interface stimulated the economy. Nevertheless, few studies bring together the work carried out over the long term and enable an understanding of the variation and evolution of Islamic trade and urbanism in Central Asia. Outlines of the medieval societies are known, but the details remain unclear. This chapter follows the main river basins (Amu Darya and Syr Daria) and steppic and desert interfaces to understand the basis and extent of Russian archeology in Central Asia from the Tsarist period (c. 1850–1917) until today. The construction of a field of Central Asian Islamic archaeology and the main challenges confronting researchers in the five Central Asian republics are also considered.
Bethany J. Walker
The following text serves as an introduction to the chapters focused on the “central lands” of the Islamic world: the “Arab heartland,” Persia, and the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Long associated with the Holy Land, this region attracted the attention of archaeologists, geographers, antiquarians, and scholars of religion early on, with missions sent to explore and map the ruins of places associated with Biblical and extra-Biblical texts with greater frequency from the 19th century. Largely born out of Biblical and Classical archaeology, Islamic archaeology thus got an early start here, gradually shifting since the 1970s from the study of changes to the Late Antique city in the post-conquest era to that of larger landscapes and the rural sphere. Interest in the process and timing of Islamization has been a driving force in archaeological research in this region.
Carlos Magnavita and Abubakar Sani Sule
In view of the paucity of research, the Islamic archaeology of the Central Sudan and Sahel remains one of the less well known of the African continent. While this also applies to the material legacy of the past six centuries, it is particularly sites and remains from the early period of Islamic influence in the region that are virtually unexplored. The earliest and most expressive elements of the archaeology of Islam in the Central Sudan and Sahel are elite sites related to powerful indigenous states: Kanem-Borno around Lake Chad and the Hausa city-states to the west. In view of their pivotal role in the introduction and propagation of the new religion and culture, the archaeology of those states is particularly significant when addressing the theme. Taking into account the current absence of a comprehensive body of archaeological evidence, this chapter relies on historical knowledge and interpretation as background to discussing a range of archaeological sites, structures, and features that are relevant material expressions of the impact of early and late Arab-Islamic influence in the region. The authors conclude by emphasizing the still untapped, enormous potential of research on the archaeology of Islam in the Central Sudan and Sahel.
Jacqueline M. Armijo
Although the study of the archaeology of China is a well-developed field, the study of the archaeology of Islam in China, as a field, is virtually unknown. There are no books covering the topic and no articles providing an overview of the state of the field across China. There are however, a handful of scholars who have focused on specific examples of Islamic archaeology in China. The majority of this work is on the archaeological finds found in the coastal city of Quanzhou. China’s Muslim population today is conservatively estimated to be more than 23 million, and is made up of ten different ethnic minority groups. This chapter focuses on the largest group, the Hui. The study of the archaeology of Islam in China is made especially challenging for several reasons. Between the 7th and 15th centuries there were two major waves of Muslim immigrants to different regions of China, and between the 18th and 19th centuries there were several periods of violent uprisings that resulted in major Muslim communities being decimated and their mosques and monuments destroyed. In the 20th century, during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) mosques, together with all places of religious worship in China, came under systematic attack throughout the country. Given the dearth of surviving examples of early Chinese Islamic material culture, this chapter also discusses some of small Chinese Islamic art collections found within museums around the world, as well as early 20th-century photographic collections that document mosques and tombs that have not survived.
Joan E. Taylor
The first Christian archaeological evidence in Palestine dates from the third century, in the so-called Megiddo church. From 326 onward, Palestine was the focus of imperial funding, and grand basilicas were established by order of the emperor Constantine. Sacred places associated with Jesus’s ancient appearance to Abraham (Mamre), birth (Bethlehem), Crucifixion and Resurrection (Golgotha), and instruction and Ascension (the Mount of Olives) have all yielded monumental remains. There is ample material testifying to a boom in church building to service Christian pilgrimage and conversion of the population, with Christian building and rebuilding continuing through to the Persian invasion of 614 and subsequent Muslim conquest of Palestine in 638.
Øystein S. LaBianca, Maria Elena Ronza, and Noël Harris
Community archaeology, or the notion that local officials, school teachers, community elders, workmen, and other community members might be recruited as partners in helping to preserve, protect, interpret, and present archaeological sites, is at best a nascent one in Islamic archaeology. This chapter provides a brief background to the concept and practice of community archaeology with special reference to its standing as an academic subspecialty within Islamic archaeology and its on-the-ground practice in countries with predominantly Muslim populations. The contribution of various international and professional organizations to the development of community archaeology in Islamic countries is assayed and specific projects are highlighted as examples of the kind of work that is being done in different countries. The chapter concludes by singling out the country of Jordan as being in the vanguard of a community archaeology revolution in the Islamic lands, including lessons learned in that country about best practices for implementing community archaeology projects.
Northern Europe and the Islamic world, although separated by the wide belt of the steppe, were in contact throughout the pre-Mongol period. The intensity of these contacts varied over time and so did their geography: objects of Islamic provenance were imported to the basin of the Kama in the 7th–10th centuries, to the lands settled by the Scandinavians and those Slavs who were under their political or cultural influence in the 9th and 10th centuries, and to the northern edge of the steppe in the two centuries before the Mongol invasion. This chapter surveys the finds of Islamic objects associated with these interactions—mostly silver coins and silverware—and investigates the mechanisms that account for their importation to the North.
Stephanie Wynne-Jones and Jeffrey Fleisher
This chapter offers an overview of historical and archaeological research on Islam and Islamic practice on the pre-colonial eastern African coast during the late first and early second millennium
Bethany J. Walker, Timothy Insoll, and Corisande Fenwick
The following Foreword, written by the three co-editors of this Handbook, situates the field of Islamic archaeology as it is practiced today in the larger study of the Islamic world. It also positions this Handbook in a growing body of scholarship on the archaeology of Islam. The special challenges faced by a newly emerging field, and one that is concerned with relatively recent historical periods and is quite literally global in scale, is presented in honest debate. The relationships of Islamic archaeology with Islamic art history and Islamic history are problematized, and the conceptual problems of Islamization and periodization explicated are and explored. The Foreword closes with a justification for the global scale of this Handbook, which determines its geographical organization.
Alison L. Gascoigne
This chapter situates Egypt within wider debates arising from the field of Islamic archaeology and provides an overview of the current state of our knowledge based on diverse categories of archaeological evidence. Its overall aim is to argue for more diverse intellectual approaches—socially and scientifically aware and theoretically embedded—to be incorporated into archaeological activity in the country in place of those more closely related to the discipline of art history. The chapter starts with a consideration of evidence from a chronological perspective, noting the current relative lack of focus on the Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods. An inevitably brief digression follows on rural archaeology, for which minimal evidence has been uncovered. Evidence for domestic activity, trade and production, and funerary practices is outlined with a particular focus on artifactual material. The chapter also considers the growth and development of urban centers, both capital and provincial, under Islamic rule. Overall, the chapter highlights a need for a more sustained focus on Egypt’s Islamic-era/medieval archaeology for its own sake, rather than as either the inheritance of the classical world or the foundations of the early modern state.
Eric C. Lapp
In antiquity, natural and artificial light was manipulated to illuminate dark spaces. Its primary and most significant use, however, may have been amuletic. This chapter explores several unique and in some instances forgotten archaeological small finds that hint at the use of symbolic light in tombs, sanctuaries, and building foundations. These ‘photoamulets’ were linked to metaphoric light both in word, image, and form. They were used for protection against darkness where evil spirits lurked. In a funerary context, photoamulets safeguarded the deceased person from non-remembrance and anonymity. They did so by invoking the apotropaic powers of light which ensured rebirth and eternal life. Mirror plaques, clay lamps with retrograde script, lamp-shaped pendants, and tokens were the most popular types adopted by Jews, Samaritans, and Christians in the late antique Near East.
The Islamic archaeology of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa remains largely unexplored. This chapter reviews research that has been completed in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland, providing a survey of the main sites that have been investigated. Relevant research themes that have emerged such as rural and urban landscapes, Islamization, trade, diet, and epigraphy are also considered within these geographical sections. The main routes for Muslim contacts from the coast to the interior are evaluated. Primary focus is given to research in eastern Ethiopia, exploring Islamization via archaeological evidence. This is indicating significantly entangled inter-African and international connections as well as allowing reconstruction of regional settlement and trade patterns involving the transfer of material, objects, technologies, and ideas. The importance of results of recent archaeological analysis in Somaliland is also highlighted in facilitating understanding of various categories of sites and particularly in relation to past nomad lifeways. Finally, future directions for research are considered.
Evidence suggests that the cost of wrapping and decorating a mummy was an expensive enterprise, and considering the wide range of people involved and the materials required, one would expect transactions concerning such costly items to have generated some paperwork. However, textual evidence for the production of mummies, burial assemblages, or tombs in Roman Egypt is almost non-existent, so much so that funerary art could almost be defined as art without artists, created by invisible hands. This article collects the available evidence and attempts to understand better the working life of the funerary artists and craftsmen of Roman Egypt.
Martin Andreas Stadler
This article discusses Egyptian funerary religion during the Roman period. During this period, there was a greater diversity of modes in which individuals could be commemorated and at the same time envisage the afterlife — as Egyptian, Hellenized Egyptian, Egyptianized Greek, and so on, depending on personal and local circumstances. The textual sources superficially show a similar variety: some compositions survive in numerous copies, while other, quite extensive texts are unique and may represent an individual creation. By the start of the Ptolemaic period, funerary compositions adapted from temple ritual texts began to appear, highlighting a connection between tomb and temple functions that became increasingly evident in the Roman period but no doubt reflects long-standing practices as well.
The meaning and scope of heritage are far from settled in the contemporary Middle East, as both history and geography are being contested, reclaimed, and reconfigured. Inspired by European models yet fueled by resistance to European colonialism, heritage preservation prompted a protracted contest between traditionalism and modernism in the past century. What began as an antiquarian interest in preserving historic monuments evolved into a more holistic understanding of the import of the built heritage in recent decades. Yet the historic cities still suffer from chronic problems of poverty, overcrowding, and neglect, as well as new problems resulting from manipulated planning and real estate capitalism, which accelerated the erosion of the civic qualities that were slowly acquired over the past two centuries. To rescue these old cities, a new conceptualizing of heritage is needed that builds on the thinking that has evolved in the last decade on the right to the city.
Heritage Management and Community Development: Thematic Introduction Beyond the “Academy:” Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Management
Bert de Vries
This section deals with the incipient practice of heritage management in Islamic archaeology through the deliberate engagement of local communities in the preservation of Islamic material culture. This growing expansion of the nature of the academic Islamic Archaeology has been enabled by the maturation of the discipline. An it was encouraged by a post-colonial activist agenda among some scholars to restore the rightful access of previously by excluded local communities to their own archaeological and architectural heritage. This thematic introduction will treat the emergence and nature of this process, and the ensuing chapters will give diverse instances of its practice.