Islamic Archaeology

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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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.

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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].

Geographical Regions


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.

Featured Article: Amulet of Kareem

The amulet was dated by Dr. Nitzan Amitai-Preiss of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem based on its calligraphy, which is typical of the early third caliphate period (circa 750–1258); the dating of the structure in which it was found; and pottery fragments found at the site, including a complete lamp, which are typical of the Abbasid period.

Beautifully inscribed in Arabic, the rare thumbnail-sized talisman has been dated to the 9th or 10th century CE, the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. The devotional writing appears on two lines and has been translated as reading: “Kareem trusts in Allah – Lord of the Worlds is Allah.”

The Kareem Amulet | Explore Seals/Bullae Found in Israel/Palestine >

Featured Article: Islamic Coinage

The first dated coins that can be assigned to the Muslims are copies of silver Dirhams of the Sassanian ruler Yazdegerd III, struck during the Caliphate of Uthman. These coins differ from the original ones in that an Arabic inscription is found in the obverse margins, normally reading "in the Name of Allah". The subsequent series was issued using types based on drachmas of Khosrau II, whose coins probably represented a significant proportion of the currency in circulation.

Dated coins exist from 680 CE (74 Hijri) and are named as 'Dinars'. These experimental issues were replaced in 683 CE (77 Hijri), except in North Africa and Spain, by completely epigraphical designs very similar to the designs adopted for the silver pieces but with a shorter reverse legend and no annulets or inner circles.

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