After reviewing the 15th volume of Sudan & Nubia in the previous entry and while waiting a very interesting and important supplement to that review, the time has come to take the Medieval Sai Project back to Athens, to the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, and to our photo exhibition “From Nubia to Sudan through the eyes of the Greek-Norwegian Archaeological Mision”.
The reason is the one-day colloquium that is organized on Saturday 3rd of December at the Museum with presentations by both Henriette and Alexandros, as well as by professor Timothy Insoll.
Timothy Insoll is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Manchester. Prior to this he obtained his doctorate and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. He is a specialist in African archaeology with particular interests in Islamic archaeology and the archaeology of African indigenous religions. He has completed archaeological fieldwork in various parts of sub-Saharan Africa including Gao and Timbuktu in Mali, the Dahlak Islands in Eritrea, in Uganda, and on Pemba and Zanzibar Islands, and is currently co-directing a major project in northern Ghana. He has also directed excavations of Islamic sites on Bahrain where he is helping in the establishment of a new museum, and also undertook archaeological survey in Gujarat in western India. Professor Insoll is the author and editor of fourteen books including The Archaeology of Islam (Blackwell, 1999), and The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2003), his most recent book is the edited collection, the Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is also the author of many research papers and reviews.
A very fitting place for his work is the Benaki Museum of Islamic art indeed! And we are surely looking forward to seeing the reactions of the Greek public to this and the other presentations.
Here follow the summaries of the three talks:
Title:Thinking about the Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa
The subject of the archaeology of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa is a vast one. Although introduced where necessary, the emphasis in the lecture is not upon culture historical sequences. Instead, this lecture will consider the material from an interpretive perspective focusing on what archaeology tells us about processes of conversion to Islam, Muslim identities and materiality, and how Islam was fitted into existing requirements and beliefs through the agency of syncretism and adaptation. Examples will be drawn from across the African continent south of the Sahara and from the earliest Muslim contacts with the region in the 7th century AD through to more recent historical archaeology. Both past and recent archaeological research will be reviewed, and by way of conclusion potential future research directions considered.
Title: Dams of the Nile and the Ethical Dilemmas of Archaeologists
The controversial Merowe Dam was inaugurated by the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, in March 2009. The reservoir of the dam had then already flooded a large stretch of the fertile Nile Valley, which required the forced resettlement of up to 78,000 people. During the construction period of the dam, foreign archaeologists were surveying and excavating in order to save the cultural heritage of the land to be flooded. This lecture will address the ethical implications of conducting salvage archaeology, when the local people are in opposition to the development project that necessitates the archaeological salvage. It will also discuss the lesson that the involved archaeologists learned and how they use this knowledge in the prospect of more dams on the Nile.
Title: Greek Texts from Medieval Nubia (in greek)
One of the most characteristic aspects of the Christian cultures of Medieval Nubia (c. 500-1500 CE) was multilingualism. At least four languages are attested in the archaeological and epigraphic record from the sites located along the Middle Nile Valley. These are Arabic, Old Nubian, Coptic, and Greek. Except for the first, the other three are based on the Greek script and are closely linked to the textual transmission patterns of the Greco-Roman Late Antiquity and the Christian Middle Ages. This lecture will focus on the testimonies of the use of the Greek language in Medieval Nubia. Among these, the finds of Greek manuscripts written on parchment are of exceptional interest. Particular attention will be given to the largest related discovery, upon which the speaker has elaborated his Ph.D. thesis at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
See you there!