Urbanism at Islamic Jerash: new readings from archaeology and history

Alan Walmsley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Scholarship has expended considerable energy to describe and explain the character of urban life after the arrival of Islam in the Middle East, with one of the primary areas being Syria-Palestine (Bilād al-Shām). With colonial occupations of the region after World War One, the primary focus of research was directed towards the ‘great’ Islamic cities, still inhabited, as seen in the detailed work of Jean Sauvaget, among others. By the 1960s, interest had extended to looking further afield, such as with the enigmatic vacated site of Ἁnjar in Lebanon. During the 1970s, there was much to be discussed about ‘The Islamic City’; issues such as what it was and what was meant, with pioneering international symposia tackling these increasingly uncertain ideas.
The 1970s and 1980s brought an expansion of field work. The question of urban continuity, not doubted for Syria’s ‘great’ cities, led to interest in the Syro-Palestinian transition from late antiquity into Islamic times: what stayed, what changed, and what was left behind, and – increasingly in focus – why! Al-Ruṣāfah and Al-Raqqah in Syria, as well as Ἁmmān, Jarash/Gerasa and Fiḥl/Pella in Jordan, were but some of the major sites investigated in some detail.
Within an increasingly focused, intellectually rigorous, anthropological, and theory-based format, the opportunity arose to address the question of urban landscapes in the late antique and early Islamic periods. Benefitting from a sound knowledge base and the right approaches with which to interrogate both old and new ideas, the Danish-Jordanian Islamic Jarash Project has rewritten the history of the late antique – early Islamic transition at the site and contributed to our knowledge on several more centuries of urban life at Jarash thereafter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe archaeology and history of Jerash
Subtitle of host publication110 years of excavations
EditorsAchim Lichtenberger, Rubina Raja
Place of PublicationTurnhout
PublisherBrepols Publishers
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9782503578200
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventThe Archaeology and History of Jerash: 110 Years of Excavations - The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 2 Mar 20173 Mar 2018


ConferenceThe Archaeology and History of Jerash
Internet address


  • Jordan
  • Jarash
  • urban planning history of Sydney
  • Late Romane Empire
  • Late Antiquity
  • Early Islamic Period
  • Islamic history
  • architectural analysis
  • archaeological analysis


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