The Identities & Islam programme is now ready to download click here. If you’re attending in person we will give you a printed copy when you arrive, but you may want to print your own copy as well.

Preliminary Programme

A preliminary programme is now available, which outlines the papers and the tentative scheduling. We will provide a final schedule nearer the event date, which will include details of Alan Walmsley’s keynote, and other additional information.

We have got a great range of papers, and if you’re interested in seeing them in person or remotely register soon. We are already at well over half capacity for general admission tickets.

Staying in Southampton

There are many affordable and conveniently located hotels, and bed and breakfasts, in Southampton. Some a mere 10 minutes walk from the Department of Archaeology.

You can now find details of some of the hotels available on our website, and in some cases we have managed to negotiate a discounted rate for attendees. If there is a discount applied, please book directly with the hotel, not a third party, and quote ‘Identities and Islam Symposium at the University of Southampton.’

As usual any further enquiries can be made to – we’re happy to advise you if we can.

Registration Open

Registration for Identities & Islam : The Fist UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology is now open. You can attend in person, or as a virtual attendee. In order to accommodate as many appropriate and high quality papers as possible, the symposium will begin on the evening of Friday 19th April, as well as all day on Saturday 20th April.

Virtual Attendance

If you are based outside of the UK, or cannot attend in person for any reason, you might consider being a virtual attendee. All papers at the symposium will be filmed and broadcast over the web (with the speaker’s permission). If you register for a virtual attendee ticket you will be able to watch the live streamed papers being delivered on our website. You will be able to comment and ask questions to speakers via social media, and will receive information and summaries of the discussion and comments (from people attending in person and virtually) as the symposium progresses.


The event is free to register, whether attending in person or virtually.

We ask that in the unlikely event that you register and then are unable to attend please contact us ( at least 48 hours before the event, so we can release your ticket to someone on the waiting list.

If you fail to do so there will be a small cancellation fee.

Click here to register

Keynote Announced

We are very pleased to announce that the keynote presentation for Identities & Islam will be given by Dr Alan Walmsley, Associate Professor of Islamic archaeology and art at the University of Copenhagen and director of the Materiality in Islam Research Inititative (MIRI).

Dr Walmsley has worked in the Middle East for over 30 years, and has directed field projects including the Islamic Jerash Project and Qatar Islamic Archaeology and Heritage Project. His interests centre on the transformations of Syria-Palestine in 7th-11th centuries AD, offering a critical, post-colonial approach to the development of these societies through material culture. More recently he has extended this approach to study formative developments in Islamic societies in the later second millennium AD in the Gulf.

Our choice of Dr Walmsley for keynote is motivated not only by his vast experience in the field of Islamic Archaeology, but also the focus of his research in critically assessing the extent of social transformations – including with the advent of Islam – which cuts to the heart of issues of Islam and identity.

Who, What and Why?

We’ve already had a great response to Identities & Islam, from further afield than we had anticipated, and we’d like to take this opportunity to let you know who we are and why we’ve chosen to organise this event as the first UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology.

Who are we?

Sarah Inskip is a final-year PhD student at the University of Southampton primarily focusing on early medieval Iberia and Britain. In particular she is interested in the emergence and development of early Islamic Iberian identity in the Cordoba and Seville regions. Her research combines evidence from human skeletal remains and historic evidence to explore changes in patterns of activity and their relationship with developing Islamic traditions.

Matthew Harrison is a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton, and a member of the Archaeological Computing Research Group. He is interested in the form and development of urbanism and domestic architecture in the Islamic world during the medieval period, particularly in Cairo-Fustat in the Tulunid to Fatimid period. His approach is centred on archaeological remains, but includes historical and architectural evidence, and utilises digital 3D modelling and spatial analysis technologies. He is currently engaged in fieldwork with the Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut at the site of Hisn al-Bab, Egypt.

Olly Drew completed his BA in Archaeology and MA in Social Archaeology at the University of Southampton. For his undergraduate dissertation he undertook a study of rural Islamic and Crusader settlements in the Jerusalem area, comparing economic and political infrastructures within these sites to examine how the settlements evolved and were governed in the Crusader era. His MA thesis used access analysis in a comparative study of urban domestic architecture within early Islamic Egypt, to see if/how social convention dictated the architectural stylings and layout of housing within the region during the era.

Olly is currently compiling a gazetteer of rural Islamic and Crusader sites across Crusader Palestine in preparation for his PhD. This will expand on his undergraduate dissertation, including a study of social interaction between the Crusader migrants and Islamic inhabitants of rural Palestine.

Why a UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology?

The archaeology of the Islamic world is by no means a wholly neglected field in Europe. On the contrary the field has been growing in recent years, and there are now significant numbers of scholars dispersed in European universities specialising in this area and adopting a wide range of approaches and geographical specialisations. Yet it has often been commented that we should perhaps expect the field to be more developed – considering the growth of the discipline of archaeology more generally and the immense size and temporal scope of the Islamic world, as well as the prominence of Islam itself in world politics (e.g .Petersen 2005).

The reasons that Islamic Archaeology has not achieved similar prominence to Classical archaeology, or even that of the archaeology of the medieval Christian world, are no doubt too complex to be fully explored here. However, part of the problem is perhaps a lack of dedicated and broad academic forums for the field.

The first journal devoted to Islamic Archaeology at its most general, Archéologie Islamique, published in 1990, never reached a wide readership outside France and ceased publication in 2001. In general, research in the field is disseminated across different institutional journals, usually with a regional focus – such as Annales Islamalogiques (an inter-disciplinary journal published by Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale) focussing predominantly on Egypt and the Levant.

In terms of regularly occurring conferences, the academic community in the field is served by the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (ICAANE), which has had sessions and papers dedicated to Islamic Archaeology since its first meeting in 1998. ICAANE attracts many high profile scholars, making an invaluable contribution to the academic community, though it remains less accessible for researchers early in their career due to high registration costs.

It is hoped that a UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology will act as a more open academic forum. It will be open in its content, encouraging not only research regarding the Near East but the entirety of the Islamic world including the Indian sub-continent, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe. It will be also encourage disciplines beyond archaeology to participate, embracing all approaches based on material culture. It will also be open in terms of accessibility – being free to attend, and with the future aim to offer financial support to those who would like to attend. We also aim to maintain a web presence through use of, as well as through social media to encourage a community to develop online.

Islamic Archaeology and Islamic Identities

Our symposium is on ‘Islamic Archaeology’ – a term that is loaded and very much open to interpretation. We use it here to denote the archaeology of societies where Islam was a predominant religious and political force, rather than as an archaeology of religion (see Insoll 1999, The Archaeology of Islam), as part of our aim to encourage a wide geographical and temporal focus to the symposium.

Yet in uniting the study of these societies under the banner ‘Islamic Archaeology’ are we in danger of reproducing the Orientalist fallacy that Islam is the central aspect of all such societies, and as such must be studied together? An awareness of this issue has led us to the inaugural symposium theme of ‘Identities & Islam’ which seeks to explore the centrality of Islam in the formation of personal and group identities across the medieval and early modern Muslim world. It is hoped that in encouraging scholars specialising in regions and periods across the ‘Islamic world’ we will create a forum in which issues of connectedness, similarity and diversity can be critically discussed.


We hope that the symposium will stimulate collaboration and a sense of community, and that this will inspire scholars from other institutions to get involved with the organisation of subsequent meetings of the symposium. In this way we hope that the UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology will become a regularly occurring and vital forum for scholars of pre-modern Islamic material culture.

Call for Papers

We are pleased to announce that the call for papers for Identities & Islam is now open:

Identities & Islam: Material Culture, Self and Society in the Pre-Modern Muslim World

The First UK Early Career Symposium on Islamic Archaeology

Archaeological scholarship has revealed considerable temporal and geographic variation in material expressions of identity within the Islamic world, through architecture, art, crafts, burial and subsistence, as well as in the organisation of trade and exchange. How integral was the uniting force of Islam in the construction of personal, group, and state identity in the past? To what extent can we see identity as being formed locally and diachronically – either in opposition to different external and internal cultural groups, influenced by pre-existing indigenous cultures and contemporary neighbouring states, or resulting from particular political changes?

The University of Southampton Department of Archaeology will host a free conference on Islamic Archaeology on 20th April 2013, addressing these issues. This conference aims to bring together post-graduate, post-doctoral and established scholars in the disciplines of Islamic Archaeology as well as architectural and art history, from institutions in the UK and beyond. This will be a unique opportunity to share knowledge and expertise – uniting what has been, until now, a disparate community.

The aims of the conference are:

  • To facilitate dialogue between scholars of material culture in the medieval and early modern Islamic world, from the UK and abroad
  • To assess the use of material culture as an indicator and creator of different kinds of identities including ethnicity, gender, religion, and class
  • To explore geographic and temporal variation in identities in the Islamic world
  • To identify multiple, layered or contrasting expressions of personal identity within groups and by individuals
  • To disseminate the results of new excavations and surveys of medieval and early modern Islamic sites and landscapes, where new evidence has a bearing on our understanding of identity
  • To consider the relationship between the material culture of the pre-modern Islamic world and the creation of identities in contemporary nations

The conference will consist of four sessions:

Transitions and Continuity

The Islamic world was simultaneously both diverse and profoundly connected. The analysis of material culture has demonstrated that while aspects of identity may emerge abruptly or evolve slowly over time, they are frequently created with reference to the past. This session therefore aims to explore not only the constancy of Islamic identity but also the role of multiple factors – regional, historic, religious and ethnic – during the medieval and early modern era.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  1. Identity before and after the advent of Islam
  2. The effect of transitions between ruling dynasties and changing judicial-religious doctrine
  3. The effect of crises, episodes of prosperity, and long-term social changes
  4. Evidence from multi-period sites and landscapes

Trade and Cultural Exchange

The system of trade and exchange in the medieval and early modern world united different, often rival, Islamic states, in addition to bringing the Muslim world into contact with non-Islamic communities in East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Europe. This session will explore the movement of goods, wealth, ideas and people resulting from mercantile trade, and its effect on personal and group identities.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  1. The exchange of ideas and social practices between communities, as facilitated through trade networks
  2. The expression of merchant identity, and of a mercantile class, in material culture
  3. The impact of extraneous cultural traditions of foreign mercantile enclaves and communities on surrounding groups

Conflict and Cultural Contrasts

Within the medieval and early modern Islamic world there existed a multitude of ethnic, political, religious and cultural divisions. For Muslims, how far were such divisions overshadowed by the uniting concept of the umma, or rather did internal conflicts and distinctions form a greater part in identity formation? For those who did not convert, how distinct did their way of life and expression of identity remain, and what effect did this have on the formation of Muslim identities? Compounding these internal contrasts are processes of interaction with external peoples and polities – whether through warfare, immigration or diplomacy.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  1. The expression and formation of identity by religious, ethnic, political and cultural minorities within the Islamic world
  2. Distinctions and similarities between Muslim and dhimmi identity
  3. Identity in frontier societies and the effect of interaction across borders
  4. The effect of immigration and invasion on identity formation

Islamic Archaeology and Contemporary Identities

The material culture of the medieval Islamic world continues to inform the identity of individuals and groups through its interpretation by modern scholars, and its curation and display in museum collections. This session will explore Islamic Archaeology’s place in discourses of Muslim, national and ethnic identity in the contemporary world.

Papers in this session may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  1. The development of scholarship, curation and display of medieval Islamic material culture, and its role in nationalist discourses
  2. The status of Islamic versus pre-Islamic Archaeology in the cultural heritage industries of modern nations
  3. The archaeology of Islam and its relationship to modern religious practice
  4. The role of Islamic Archaeology in conflicts within and between contemporary nations


We invite submissions for papers and posters in the form of no more than 200 word abstracts, which should be emailed to no later than 12th December 2012. In addition to the abstract your submission should include:

  • Name(s) of Author(s)
  • Paper title
  • Intended session
  • Your institutional affiliation
  • Description of the geographical and temporal scope of the paper

Papers will be 20 minutes in length, and the language of the conference will be English. Any further enquiries should be made by email


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