Lecture in the Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Cairo, Egypt

Last week I was delighted to give a Kazimierz Michałowski Memorial Lecture, “Cairo – an African Metropolis. Archaeological Perspectives on Contacts between Cairo and Eastern Ethiopia in the 12th to 15th Centuries” in the delightful building of the PCMA in the Heliopolis area of Cairo. This still being the COVID age, the lecture was hybrid, in-person and on Zoom, and it was thrilling to see real people again in the lecture room, the PCMA library. The visit to Cairo also allowed me to firm up the connections between Harlaa and Cairo through visits to the Museum of Islamic Art, and from the Wakalat al-Jallaba, kindly facilitated by our Egyptian CfIA PhD student, Hisham Nasr. 

– Tim

Autumn 2021 Series of “Medieval Archaeology in the Horn of Africa” Seminars

Following on from the excellent start to the series provided by Dr Alemseged Beldados, the seminars continued with a further five engaging lectures were given on Zoom by our guest speakers, Prof. Julien Loiseau, Dr Said M. Shidad-Hussein, Dr Alfredo González-Ruibal, Dr Marie-Laure Derat and Dr Helina S. Woldekiros. These covered a range of topics and attested the diversity of exciting research being completed on the medieval archaeology of the Horn of Africa. 

– Tim 

Bahrain Fieldwork 2021

Another successful field season was completed on Muharraq Island in November 2021. Excavation of the settlement area in Muharraq Town that yielded East African ceramics, and first investigated in 2018, and again in 2019, was completed. This uncovered a range of features associated with industrial activities such as glass making, as well as kitchen facilities – ovens, and a large almost complete storage vessel – and another pot filled with coins wrapped in textiles. Further excavation of the Christian building complex at Samahij, possibly the Bishop’s palace or episcopal seat of Meshmahig, and seemingly abandoned in the 8th century, following Islamisation, was also completed.  

– Tim 

Three new PhD students in the Centre for Islamic Archaeology

And we also welcome three new PhD students to the Centre for Islamic Archaeology. Samantha Dobson who is working on her thesis, “Pearl Fishing, Commerce, and Identities in Muharraq Town, Bahrain”, generously funded by the David Higgins PhD Studentship in Islamic Archaeology, Hesham Nasr working on his thesis, “Religion in Eastern Arabia in the 6th-8th c. AD. An Archaeological and Historical Study”, and Yiying Li working on her thesis, “Reconstructing Identity. An Archaeological Study of Muslim Communities in Tang China”.  

– Tim


Welcome event for some of the new (and older) members of the Centre for Islamic Archaeology 

Successful Completion of Two PhDs in the Centre for Islamic Archaeology

Two new PhDs have recently been awarded in the Centre for Islamic Archaeology. Dr Nathan Anderson successfully defended his thesis, “The Materiality of Islamisation as Observed in Archaeological Remains in the Mozambique Channel”, and Dr Alessandro Ghidoni his thesis, “The Ship Timbers from the Islamic Site of Al-Balid: A Case Study of Sewn-Plank Technology in the Indian Ocean”. Congratulations to them both. 

– Tim 

New Article on the local ceramics from Harlaa just published in “African Archaeological Review”

Nick Tait, former ‘Becoming Muslim’ project PhD student and I have just published a paper on the analysis of the locally made ceramics from Harlaa. The article explores the value of these ceramics as chronological markers, and for understanding regional and long-distance contacts, cultural innovations, processes of Islamization, and foodways. The details and link where it can be found are –

Tait, N., and Insoll, T. 2021 Local Ceramics from the Islamic Trade Centre of Harlaa, Eastern Ethiopia: Markers of Chronology and Contacts. African Archaeological Review.

– Tim


Examples of local ceramics from Harlaa. A) large red/brown earthenware/plainware storage vessel with flat in-turned rim (HAR17-B-6-27); B) light brown burnished carinated bowl with simple rim (HAR17-B-18-8); C) black/brown burnished simple rim with roughened line decoration (HAR17-B-14-2); D) earthenware/plainware stand base (HAR15-A-2-6); E) black/brown burnished bowl with simple rim and grooved decoration(HAR17-B-5-8) F) black/brown burnished out-turned flat lipped rim with roughened line decoration(HAR17-B-8-6) (photographs by N. Tait).