Archaeology of Islamic Societies

Module code: AR3088

  • Who are the Muslims and what is their history?
  • Is there an ‘Islamic’ culture, or indeed more than one?
  • What is the place of the history of Islam in everybody’s history?
  • How can archaeologists study Islamic societies?

Islam originated in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century CE, but it spread very quickly around the world and today it is one of the most important religions all over the world and forms part of the moral and cultural upbringing of millions of people. How did a religious movement born in a peripheral area of the Ancient World become so widespread and influential in our days?

In this module we will examine, with the eyes of an archaeologist, the birth and first steps of the Islamic movement, and its main historical phases to become a world religion shared across many communities. We will look at the main social and cultural issues that shaped Islamic societies in history and how they influenced their material culture, but we will also explore the history and geography of Islamic societies in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In this itinerary we will learn how to formulate research questions to understand Islamic societies while appreciating and respecting their variety and richness. 

Topics covered

  • Islamic Archaeology and Archaeology of Islam
  • The expansion of Islam: conquest, civilization, culture, religion
  • Nomads and Cities: the Khaldunian cycle
  • Cultural innovations: decorative arts, agriculture, architecture
  • The Arab Caliphates: Rashidun, Umayyads, Abbasids
  • The Persianate culture: Iranians and Seljuks
  • The Gunpowder empires: Ottomans, Safavids, Mughals
  • Beyond empires: Islam in Africa and the Indian Ocean.