The inaugural IOW-ARCH conference was hosted by the Centre for Islamic Archaeology, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, over the 10th and 11th January 2020. We welcomed nearly 70 delegates from various countries including, besides the UK, France, Switzerland, USA, Sweden, Germany, Bahrain, China, Japan, and Malaysia. A very varied and interesting programme of papers was presented ranging from new archaeological investigations through maritime archaeology, ceramics, manuscripts and epigraphy, and regional sessions on the Red Sea and East African coast. It was a very good start to what is hoped will be a biennial even with the next held at Durham University in 2022.
The ‘Becoming Muslim” project conference was held this week and was a great success. Two days of presentations accompanied by several networking events took place between the evening of the 16th December and the final conference dinner on the evening of the 18th December. Speakers from the UK, as well as Belgium, Germany, Madagascar, Mali, and Poland gave fascinating papers on material from the whole of the continent as well as providing views from a historian and anthropologist on the conference theme. Thirty seven delegates and guests, including from Ethiopia, Italy, Eritrea, Madagascar, Spain, India, and Sudan, joined in extended debate over concepts ranging from the material and archaeological indicators of Islam, the concept of Islam, syncretism, the complexity of African Islamic practices, and future directions in research. I will be editing the papers as a conference proceedings.
A very successful field season was completed on Muharraq Island in
Bahrain in November, with direct relevance for the BM project. What appears to
be undisturbed Umayyad occupation was recorded in-situ at one site, and further
evidence for African connections found in the form of African origin/inspired
ceramics, including roulette decorated and Tana Tradition/Triangular Incised
Wares from East Africa. Several sherds of black burnished wares were also
recovered, possibly also of African (Ethiopian?) provenance. This material is
the focus of PhD research by Awet T. Araya looking at African-Gulf connections
in the Islamic period through ceramics analysis.
Just before leaving for fieldwork investigating early Islamic sites on Bahrain as part of a long-running project, I gave a well-attended lecture at the Society of Antiquaries, London, about the BM research. The Bahrain research has become particularly relevant to BM as we are finding East African ceramics and, potentially, Ethiopian ceramics as well. Material evidence attesting the historical references to contacts between the Gulf and these regions.
Yesterday I presented a paper at the African Archaeology Research Day held at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. As always, the annual AARD conference was an interesting day filled with a variety of talks on archaeological research being carried out throughout the continent. I spoke about the work I have been conducting on using open source satellite imagery on Islamic sites in Ethiopia and the potential of its use across Africa.
Just published in the Journal of Islamic Archaeology is a new paper I wrote with Ahmed Zekaria from the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, describing the results of the excavations in Harar in the 2018 field season. The full details are – Insoll, T., and Zekaria, A. 2019. The Mosques of Harar. An Archaeological and Historical Study. Journal of Islamic Archaeology 6: 81-107.
Last week I met with around 20 researchers from a range of international institutions to form the LandCover6k working group for the African continent. The goal of the project is to use the archaeological record to provide information on past land cover and land use change. This will improve our understanding of current and future land-use change and how it effects the climate. The purpose of the workshop held at the University of Cambridge was to collate data and knowledge of land use in Africa through lists and maps of dated sites, this was followed by discussions in regional groups to create an initial conceptualisation of land use/cover through different time slices. I discussed Islamic archaeological sites in Ethiopia, along with Iron Age sites in West Africa.
I completed three weeks of small finds analysis in the laboratories of the ARCCH in Addis Ababa in August 2019. The material from Harlaa is fascinating and important new information was obtained through the study of the glazed Middle Eastern ceramics, Far Eastern storage jars, metal objects, crucibles, stone vessel fragments, marine shells, and glass vessel and bracelet fragments.
The CfIA and the IAIS are hosting the inaugural IOW-Arch. Indian Ocean World Archaeology Conference on the 10th-11th January 2020. For details see here.
Papers are welcome on all aspects of the archaeology, material culture and heritage of the Indian Ocean (defined as from East Africa to Japan, including Australasia) from the first millennium BC to the contemporary era. Presentations should be in English and must not exceed 15 minutes.
Both speakers and non-speaking audience members are welcome to register. Registration costs £25 (£15 for students) and includes conference programme, drinks reception on the 10th, and refreshments and lunch on the 11th. To register, please email Hannah Parsons, the conference assistant, or register through the link above.
I gave a lecture last week in the first Tsinghua University Areas Study Forum in Beijing on “Challenges in Heritage Presentation and Development. Contrasting Perspectives from Eastern Ethiopia and Bahrain”. I then travelled to Quanzhou in south-east China to visit the Dragon kiln site at Cizao on the Jingiaoyi Hill. This was a centre of ceramics production between the 10th-13th centuries and specialised in, notably Celadon and brown glazed wares. These were extensively traded via Indian Ocean networks, perhaps, though this is as yet unproven, to Ethiopia as well?