Institute of Archaeology

Themes and Debates in Islamic Archaeology and Heritage

The history and heritage of the Islamic world has never been so relevant or misunderstood. This module provides a comparative overview of key debates in the archaeology of the Islamic world, with a particular focus on how and why they matter today. Major themes include the origins of the first Islamic states, the spread of Islam, iconoclasm and jihad, urbanism and monumentality, industrial and agricultural innovations, trade and the Islamic world system, and the politics of Islamic heritage. Throughout, we will take an explicitly comparative approach, emphasising the different regional trajectories of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, sub-Saharan Africa, central Asia and beyond. 

Aims and Objectives of the course

  • To provide an advanced, inter-disciplinary training in Islamic archaeology and heritage
  • To introduce students to the most important current research questions and the main interpretative paradigms that have dominated the field.
  • To develop critical faculties both in debate and in written evaluation of current research (problems, method and theory, quality of evidence).
  • To engage students with the different forms of evidence (objects, monuments, texts) and to critically discuss their interpretative potential for the study region.
  • To examine how Islamic history and heritage is/ has been presented today to the public across the world, in the media, in museums and on sites.
  • To prepare students to undertake original research on topics in Islamic archaeology and heritage. 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the course students should be able to:

  • demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of major themes and debates in Islamic archaeology and heritage today
  • critically analyse and present complex arguments and theories about aspects of the subject orally and in writing
  • show a critical awareness of the contribution made by different academic disciplines and types of data to our understanding of the Islamic world
  • compare and analyse data and material across regional and chronological boundaries and apply acquired knowledge to individual sites and bodies of material

Teaching Methods

The course is taught through 1 two-hour introductory lecture and 9 two-hour seminars. Students are provided with a reading list for each seminar, supported by Moodle. Each session will use applied case studies (linked to students individual interests) to address key theoretical issues in Islamic archaeology. Seminars have weekly recommended readings, which students will be expected to have done, to be able fully to follow and actively to contribute to discussion. Each seminar will conclude with the outline of preparatory reading and any other tasks proposed for the following week. 

Course information

  • Code: ARCLG354
  • Credits: 15
  • Coordinator: Corisande Fenwick
  • Prerequisite: This course does not have a prerequisite.
  • Handbook: open»

For registered students


  • Running in 2017-18

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