Yesterday (28th February) was the formal end date of the Becoming Muslim project. It was a wonderful opportunity to complete this research and I would like to thank the ERC, the Ethiopian authorities, and all the project partners and team members for making this possible. One of the most rewarding outcomes was the Harlaa site Museum which formally opened last weekend with a visit of Directors and other personnel from the EHCA (former ARCCH). This blog will continue to be used to present results and other items of interest.
Thanks to the hard work of Mr Temesgen Leta from the Ethiopian Heritage Conservation Authority, and a team comprising Mr Dejene Dandema, Mr Endris Hussien, and Mr Abraham Yaregal, the Harlaa site museum is now a reality. The Community in Ganda Biyo (Harlaa) donated a building, and this has been internally plastered and decorated, artifacts collected by the community placed in showcases, and trilingual (Afaan Oromo, Amharic, and English) interpretive panels mounted on the wall. Printed booklets for sale to tourists were also sent from the UK with the interpretive panels. If you are passing Harlaa, please visit!
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.
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.
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.
The “Medieval Archaeology in the Horn of Africa” seminar series started this week with a very engaging lecture delivered by Dr Alemseged Beldados of the Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management at Addis Ababa University on “Comparative Archaeobotany of Medieval Christian and Islamic Ethiopia”.
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”.
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.
Co-organised and co-chaired by Awet T. Araya and Prof. Timothy Insoll of the Centre for Islamic Archaeology, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, this exciting seminar series will run between October and December of this year. Further details, including on how to register, are on the poster image.