SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Islamic Archaeology

Module Code:
Taught in:
Term 1

This course explores the origins and development (as well as the future) of archaeology in and of the Islamic world. It considers the relationship between Islamic archaeology and imperialism, colonialism, nationalism, and, more recently, tourism and heritage management. In examining the impetus for Islamic archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it also considers the relationship between the art market, the formation of museum collections, and archaeological expeditions.
However, the main focus of the course it to examine the methods and results of excavations in Islamic levels at multi-period sites, or at single occupation Islamic sites. The course is organised chronologically and regionally, examining first the great excavations of the early 20th century at places like Samarra, Rayy, and Nishapur, A trip to the British Museum will examine remains from the Samarra excavations, and there will be opportunity to examine finds in SOAS's own collections from British excavations at Harran, Turkey. Examination of the archaeology of the Islamic world will focus primarily on those areas where the course convenor has special experience and expertise: Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Egypt, and Syria.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

LO1. Understand better the relationship between collecting, art history, and archaeology.
LO2. Learn the full range of Islamic material culture, from wall paintings and monumental civic and religious architecture to ceramics, coins, glass, and other small finds.
LO3. Be able to understand the fundamentals of archaeology as practiced in the 19th-early21st centuries.
LO4. Be able better to analyse archaeologically derived materials themselves.
LO5. Understand better the importance of context for the study of objects of material culture.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

Week 1. Introduction: Archaeology, Colonialism, & the Market
Week 2. Archaeology in the Late Ottoman Empire I:
Osman Hamdi Bey
Week 3. Archaeology in the Late Ottoman Empire II
Raqqa, Miletos, Iznik
Week 4 Samarra
Week 5. Trip to the British Museum (Samarra material)
Week 7. Islamic Archaeology in Iran: Rayy & Nishapur
Week 8. Egypt: Cairo, Fustat, & Quseir al-Qadim
Week 9. Archaeology of the Crusades
Week 10. Salvage Archaeology: the case of Turkey
Week 11. Slide Test

Method of assessment

  • One 1 000 words book or article review (worth 30%)
  • One 2 000 words essay (worth 70%)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules