Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa from Late Antiquity to the Ottoman period. Second series: Iraq & Arabian Peninsula
Julie Bonnéric (Ifpo)
Valentina Vezzoli (Udine University)
Potters’ workshops and their productions in the Arabian Peninsula between 10th and 15th AD, by Fabien Lesguer.
Potters’ workshops of the Islamic periods in the Arabian Peninsula are a topic of study that has rarely been explored by archaeologists until now. Several recent excavations, however,allow for new comparative research on the entire production chain of ceramics. The aim of this research is to understand the spatial organization of the workshop in relation to each stage of ceramic production (clay preparation, shaping, drying, decoration, firing and waste management) and its integration into its environment, as well as the evolution of techniques and their diffusion over time between different regions. Workshops have thus been excavated at the oasis site of al-Yamāmah (9th-10th AD) in Saudi Arabia and in the harbour of Qalhāt (13th-15th AD) in Oman. In parallel, ethnoarchaeological studies carried out on potters’ workshops in the peninsula, notably in Bahla in Oman shed additional light on the organization of the excavated workshops.
Fabien Lesguer is Phd student at University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne and CNRS study engineer for the Dadan Archaeological Project in the laboratory “ORIENT & MÉDITERRANÉE UMR 8167”. He studies pre-Islamic and Islamic pottery workshops in the Arabian Peninsula, notably on the sites of Qalhat in Oman, Thaj and al Kharj in Saudi Arabia and on the workshops of Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.
Although the significance of Basra to early Islamic civilization is well known the physical remains of the site and its location are poorly understood despite extensive historical information and considerable archaeological fieldwork carried out at the site. There are many reasons for this situation including in recent times the conflicts surrounding the Iran-Iraq war, the 1990 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq all of which had a significant impact on Basra. Other reasons for the limited understanding of the site include the relatively small number of historical standing buildings and the complex topography of the site. Despite these problems there is now a considerable amount of data which can provide the basis for understanding the origin and development of this remarkable city. This talk will review the results of three seasons of fieldwork in Basra using archival research, aerial photogrammetry, surface survey and geo-archaeological investigations. The research provides a number of valuable insights into the development of the early Islamic city although it also highlights dangers to the city through rapid development over the site of the early Islamic city.
Prof. Andrew Petersen is Director of Research in Islamic Archaeology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He studied medieval history and archaeology at St.Andrews followed by an MPhil in Islamic Architecture at Oxford. His PhD at Cardiff University concentrated on the development of urban centres in medieval and Ottoman Palestine. He has worked in and carried out research in a number of countries of the Middle East and Africa including, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Turkmenistan, the UAE, Oman, Syria, Qatar, Kenya and Tanzania. He has also worked in British archaeology with a speciality in recording standing buildings. He is a Member of the Institute for Archaeologists and a Fellow of the Royal historical Society. He has published a number of books on different aspects of the architecture and archaeology of the Islamic world including most recently an edited volume on Ramla in collaboration with Denys Pringle.
The paper aims to present the Kuwaiti-Italian archaeological project carried on in the site of Al-Qurainiyah on Failaka Island, were an early Islamic settlement was found. Building and a work shop has been investigated and a large amount of pottery has been collected during 10 years of work in the field. Ceramics from archaeological stratigraphy seem to indicate an occupation of the area as an harbour as early as the Late Hellenistic period, with an intensive and well-organized occupation between the end of seventh century and the beginning of the ninth century AD. This lecture aims to present the topography of the site and some preliminary results from the comprehensive analysis of all the finds excavated at the site of Qurainiyah between 2010 and the latest 2019 campaign. On this occasion we shall discuss the Early Islamic domestic –mainly ceramic– assemblage from the 8th and 9th century houses, stressing possible uses and provenance of pottery.
Dr. Andrea Di Miceli (University of Perugia): Master’s degree in Classical archaeology at the University of Perugia, Master in Classical Archeology at the University of Matera and he received his PhD in Late antique studies from the University of Perugia. He took part to numerous excavations with Italian and foreign universities in Italy and abroad. He has been collaborating for years with the chair of Methodology of Archaeological Research and Archeology Roman of the University of Perugia. Since 2010 he is the director of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Failaka (State of Kuwait).
Dr. Elisa Laschi (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn): Master’s degree in Classical Archaeology with fifteen years of experience in excavations and projects of research, PhD Candidate at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. She took part to many archaeological excavations in Italy and the Middle East (Jordan and Kuwait), dealing with excavation, documentation and study of findings. Her research interests are ancient pottery (from Central Italy and the Near and Middle East) and the transformations of cult places occurring in Italy during after the romanization. She is part of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Failaka (State of Kuwait), as lab supervisor.
In the last decades, Islamic archaeology has developed in several countries in the Middle East based on the results of the new excavation and survey projects. Defining Islamic Archaeology in the region of Iraqi Kurdistan is still in its commencement. Few projects were operated in the region in the last period and could provide some archaeological data that need processing in a wider and broader contextualization. The region of Sulaymaniyah has witnessed very few projects that address the Islamic periods. Nevertheless, the results of the excavations in the Islamic phases of the different archaeological sites, beside the outcomes of the surveys, old and new, could give an insight to the Islamic archaeology in the region. This webinar presents the state of the art of the Islamic archaeology in Sulaymaniyah province, the different perspectives, and the challenges of this discipline towards a better understanding.
Mustafa Ahmad is a Syrian archaeologist and a ceramist. He is a specialist of Islamic archaeology, working at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin. He has a PhD degree in Islamic History and archaeology from the University of Lyon 2 in France. His research focuses on the Islamization of territories and the material culture of the Islamic period in the Near East. He has worked in several excavation and survey projects in Syria and Iraq since 2002. He is responsible for studying the Islamic materials of numerous archaeological sites and surveys in Sulaymaniyah region, such as Kani Shaie, Shahrizor plain survey, Tanjaro valley survey, Rania and Pishdar plains survey, and Bazyan valley survey. Currently, he is involved in three archaeological projects: the exploration of the ancient city of al-Hira near al-Najaf in Iraq (DAI), the excavation project at Tell Bassetki and the survey (EHAS) in Duhok region in Iraqi Kurdistan (University of Tübingen), and the excavation project at the Islamic site of al-Mabiyat / Qurḥ in al-Ula in Saudi Arabia (DAI).
January 25th, 2pm Rome | 4pm Riyad
The Khaybar oasis, in northwestern Arabia, is renowned in Islamic history for the battle that took place there in 7 AH/ 628 AD, an important early victory for the prophet Muhammad’s armies in Arabia over the local Jewish tribes, and for being the first recorded instance of the waqf, the Islamic religious endowment. In subsequent centuries Khaybar went less remarked, then, in 2020, the Khaybar Longue Durée Archaeological Project began revealing new faces of Khaybar’s Islamic history. Financed by the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Agence française pour le développement d’AlUla, extensive survey over a 56 km2 area, as well as targeted soundings at key sites, began to reveal not only continuity of occupation from the pre-Islamic period into the Early Islamic era, but also from the Abbasid period, which, potentially, represents a major reorganisation and expansion in settlement and agricultural lands. Significant hydro-agricultural developments are likely to date from this time, along with the creation of two new settlements — in the oasis core and on its periphery — and a change in defence strategy. This season (autumn 2022) two test trenches were opened in the congregational mosque of Bishr, revealing an Early Islamic foundation with multiple later phases of use: this may correlate to the Mosque of the Prophet, referred to by medieval sources. Medieval occupation in Khaybar is represented principally by surface ceramics, including imported pottery from Egypt and Syria, and the identification of fortified village sites. The Ottoman period sees major shifts, notably the presence of large enclosure systems used by the ‘Anaza Bedouin for processing dates into a portable commodity, the marabid, and in the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries, the building of new fortified sites in the oasis core. This led to more de-nucleated settlement distribution which culminated in the foundation of modern Khaybar, to the south of the oasis, in 1979.
Guillaume Chung-To is a PhD candidate at the University of Paris 1 with a scholarship from the Khaybar project, working on the archaeology of the transition between late pre-Islamic and Early Islamic period Arabia and has excavated at several sites in Saudi Arabia (Thāj, al-Badʿ, ʿAsham, Khaybar).
Stephen McPhillips is a researcher responsible for the Islamic periods in the CNRS Khaybar Longue Durée Archaeological Project. He previously worked with the Honor Frost Foundation in Lebanon as a landscape archaeologist, and prior to that at the University of Copenhagen as a researcher and teacher.
Research on the latest historical periods of the Middle East is characterized by various deeply pronounced discontinuities. The boundaries are drawn along historical events (for example between the pre-Islamic and Islamic eras), current political boundaries, confessional differences, and differences in the language of the extant sources, as well as along a drastic imbalance in the use of written sources and archaeological data. The monasticism of the Church of the East (East Syriac) in the territory of Northern Iraq witnessed a tremendous expansion from the late 6th to the 10th century and this subject is by no means marginal. Monasteries as a settlement form, a monastic landscape with its economic, social, and ideological implications, are nevertheless on the very periphery of scholarly interest. The virtually zero state of research contrasts with the developed research in Egypt, Palestine, Anatolia, or even in southern Iraq and the Gulf area. The lecture will sum up the topic on the basis of new or newly re-interpreted archaeological data.
Karel Nováček is an archaeologist and architecture historian, associate professor of medieval archaeology in the Department of History, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic. Since 2006, he directed or participated in numerous projects in Kurdistan Autonomous Region and North Iraq. He is the only or principal author of the monographs The Kladruby Abbey 1115–1421: Settlement – Architecture – Artefacts (Prague: Scriptorium, 2010), Medieval Urban Landscape in Northeastern Mesopotamia (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2016), Mosul after Islamic State: The Quest for Lost Architectural Heritage (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), and Medieval Cities of Assyria (Olomouc: Faculty of Arts UP, 2022). He is a foundation member of Rashid International, a network of archaeologists and cultural heritage experts, dedicated to safeguarding the cultural heritage of Iraq.
Bedouins have been around for a long while in the Arabian peninsula, but in Qatar archaeology starts dating them only in the early Islamic period, when they become sedentary. The process of sedentarisation of nomads of Qatar can also be seen in other places of the Middle East, and it is usually interpreted as an effect of the pressure of the state and of the arrangement of the rural landscape from a landowning class that lives mostly in towns. However, recent research in Qatar shows that we may need to rethink the role of the nomads in the early Islamic period in the Arabian Gulf. In this presentation, I will put forward an interpretation of evidence that suggest that Bedouins became sedentary before they were forced to do so by state or urban pressure. The key to this process is the opportunities for mobility and connectivity that the early Islamic period offered, and that the nomads used to their full extent.
José C. Carvajal López did his undergraduate degree and his PhD in the University of Granada (Spain). He then held a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship in the University of Sheffield (UK), became lecturer of Islamic Archaeology in UCL Qatar, and since 2018 is a lecturer of Historical Archaeology at the University of Leicester (UK). His specialist field as an archaeologist is pottery and material culture in general, primarily in Iberia, but he also has experience in landscape and architectural archaeology. He focuses on archaeological study of the Islamic culture, mainly in the process of Islamization and in interactions of Islam with other cultures. He searches for approaches that combine anthropological theory on material culture and analyses with scientific techniques.