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The Islamic archaeology is concerned with the investigation of the material culture and historical record of Muslim peoples and societies. As an area of academic inquiry and as a practical part of heritage management, Islamic archaeology is growing as the role of Islam in the world increases both as a political force and in terms of its financial resources.
Because the Islamic Archaeology as a field of study is relatively young, there are a number of conceptual difficulties with the term “Islamic archaeology” which will be discussed further, but for the present it is used in broad inclusive fashion to encompass any archaeology where Islam is a significant factor in the history or heritage of the region or theme under consideration.
The emergence of the Islamic Civilization, which is no clearer than the emergence of the Sumerians or the Old Kingdom of Egypt, demands the attention of archaeological research. And the Islamic Archaeology presents a prime opportunity to address historical questions from complementary textual and archaeological evidence.
Born from the fields of Islamic art and architectural history, the archaeological study of the Islamic societies is a relatively young discipline. With its roots in the colonial periods of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its rapid development since the 1980s warrants a reevaluation of where the field stands today.
Marcus Milwright defines the field of Islamic archaeology as a specialism within the discipline of archaeology. The term Islamic archaeology may be broadly defined as the examination of the physical remains of human activity and of the wider environment in regions of the world where the ruling elite professed the faith of Islam [UR2].
It will be clear that just as the Islamic world covers a large area and a significant proportion of the world’s land surface, so the archaeology of Islam will incorporate considerable diversity in terms of geo-locations, ethnicities, beliefs, environments, languages, histories, politics, and economics. At present it is not very clear outside of the very obvious geographical areas, how the extant and application of the subject Islamic Archaeology shuld be defined, which will be one of the major focuses of this article.
- [UR1] The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology
This Handbook represents for the first time a survey of Islamic archaeology on a global scale, describing its disciplinary development and offering candid critiques of the state of the field today in the Central Islamic Lands, the Islamic West, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. The international contributors to the volume address such themes as the timing and process of Islamization, the problems of periodization and regionalism in material culture, cities and countryside, cultural hybridity, cultural and religious diversity, natural resource management, international trade in the later historical periods, and migration. Critical assessments of the ways in which archaeologists today engage with Islamic cultural heritage and local communities closes the volume, highlighting the ethical issues related to studying living cultures and religions.
- [UR2] Islamic Archaeology: Introduction
Islamic archaeology is a specialism within the discipline of archaeology. The term Islamic archaeology may be broadly defined as the examination of the physical remains of human activity and of the wider environment in regions of the world where the ruling elite professed the faith of Islam. Thus, archaeologists concern themselves with the material record of Muslim and non-Muslim communities in any given area or time period. This definition is sometimes extended to include the study of Muslim communities living under the dominion of non-Muslim elites. While the methods and analytical procedures followed in this specialism generally derive from other branches of archaeology, scholars have debated the extent to which Islamic archaeology should be defined specifically as the study of the material record of Muslim faith and practice. Islamic archaeology can be considered an historical discipline in the sense that it is the interpretation of the physical remains from periods for which there exist contemporary textual sources. The chronological boundaries are from 622 CE to the present, although many Islamic archaeologists also study the relationships between the material records of pre-Islamic and Islamic phases. It is often difficult to delimit the boundaries between Islamic archaeology and Islamic art history, and in some phases, particularly the early Islamic period (usually defined as 7th–10th centuries), there is considerable overlap in the objects of study (see also Walter Denny’s separate article, “Islamic Art”). Archaeology encompasses a wide range of activities in the retrieval of data (such as excavation, field survey, environmental sampling, photography, and remote sensing) and at the level of analysis (ranging from conventional concerns with dating, sequencing, typology, and distribution to the numerous forms of scientific testing). Archaeological projects involve specialists from many disciplines, and this multidisciplinary character is often reflected in published reports. Islamic archaeology has yet to develop an agreed corpus of “canonical” publications, and the selection given below is meant to introduce the reader to the main strands of recent research across most parts of the Islamic world.
- Milwright, Marcus. An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology. New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.
- The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology, Edited by Bethany J. Walker, Timothy Insoll, and Corisande Fenwick. Published online: Nov 2020
- Adams, R. McC. 1965. The land behind Baghdad. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.
- Insoll, T. 2003. The archaeology of Islam in Sub Saharan Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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- Canby, S. 2000. Islamic archaeology: by accident or design, in S. Vernoit (ed.) Discovering Islamic art: scholars, collectors and collections: 128-37. London and New York: I.B. Taurus.
- Creswell, K.A.C. 1932. Early Muslim architecture, Umayyads, early ‘Abbasids and Tulunids, Part I: Umayyads, A.D. 622-750. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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- Northedge, A. 2008. Historical topography of Samarra (Samarra Studies 1). London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq and Max Van Berchem Foundation.
- Petersen, A.D. 2005. Islamic archaeology in Israel. Antiquity 79(306): 858-63.
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- Russell, D. 2004. Aboriginal-Makassan interactions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in northern Australia and contemporary sea rights claims. Australian Aboriginal Studies 1: 3-17.
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- Torres, C. & S. Macias. 2001. In the land of the enchanted Moorish maiden. Vienna: Museum With No Frontiers.
- Van Berchem, M. 2001. Matériaux pour un corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Jérusalem. Geneva: Max van Berchem Foundation.
- Vernoit, S. 1997. The rise of Islamic archaeology. Muqarnas 14: 1-10.
- Whitehouse, D. 1970. Siraf: a medieval port on the Persian Gulf. World Archaeology 2(2): 141-58.
- Petersen A. (2014) Islamic Archaeology. In: Smith C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY.
- Northedge, Alastair. "Archaeology and Islam." In Companion Encyclopedia of Archaeology, edited by G. Barker, 1999.
- Rosen-Ayalon, Myriam. Islamic Art and Archaeology in Palestine, translated by E. Singer, 2006. ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION: Introduction 137.
- Wilkinson, Charles K Nishapur: Pottery of the Early Islamic Period, 1975. ISLAMIC CMLIZATION.