Then and now—now and then: strategies for Islamic archaeology in the 21st century

Alan Walmsley

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Levantine archaeology, forked between the three “archaeologies” of prehistory, biblical studies, and classical history, has been ill equipped to tackle the Islamic periods. The theories and methodologies of these archaeologies, each focusing on an earlier period, had grown out of a different and, for Islamic archaeology, often quite irrelevant set of objectives. These disciplines, furthermore, often brought with them considerable cultural baggage, thereby introducing, regrettably, entrenched attitudes (indeed prejudices) irrelevant and inappropriate to the study of pre-modern Islamic societies. To some extent, especially early on, the intellectual tradition of each archaeologist was also reflected in their work: ancient/medieval historian, architectural historian, art historian, or a “dirt” archaeologist from a classical, biblical and/or prehistoric background. While, in the last decade or so, a certain “blurring” of backgrounds has occurred, gaps still exist between major discipline groups, notably historians, art historians and archaeologists—both dirt and architectural. Another drawback has been that, with only few exceptions, the academic goals of project directors and, even more disturbing, those of their funding bodies have severely discriminated against the appropriate consideration of Islamic remains, both in terms of excavation strategy and publication record. The problem is compounded by the fact that modern international tourism only rarely places an equal priority on sites with a predominantly Islamic heritage. This is sadly true for the whole region, but hopefully the recent pioneering “Museum with no Frontiers” project, featuring sites of early Islamic Jordan, will begin to break down this unreasonable bias.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2nd International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
Subtitle of host publication22-26 May 2000, Copenhagen: volume 2: Islamic archaeology, general; Islamic archaeology, symposium
EditorsIngolf Thuesen, Alan George Walmsley
Place of PublicationBologna
PublisherDepartment of History and Cultures, University of Bologna/Eisenbrauns
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9788861130067
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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