This article reports on recent fieldwork at the site of the early Islamic city Basra, located fifteen kilometres to the southwest of the modern city. The article sets the site within the geographical and historical context of early Islamic Iraq with particular reference to Kufa and Wāsit. In addition, the article contains a review of previous archaeological research followed by a summary of the results from current fieldwork carried out by the authors. Finally, this text highlights the need for further fieldwork both to answer research questions and protect the valuable heritage of Iraq’s first Muslim city.
Inscriptions containing women’s titles and names on objects are relatively rare occurrences throughout the Islamic world, whether they belong to known personalities or to unknown individuals. This article examines graffiti in the names of women from the Rasulid dynasty in Yemen (626–858/1229–1454), incised on silver-inlaid brass objects mostly made in Mamluk workshops (seventh–eighth/thirteenth–fourteenth centuries) as commissions, gifts, or purchases for the Rasulid sultans of Yemen, which have hitherto been unidentified. Moreover, the titles of these princesses also are found on Ayyubid metal objects. Although of little aesthetic value, these inscriptions hold great historical and social significance by providing details on inheritance, lineage, ownership, and the object’s history.
This study explores the epigraphical program of Mamluk preaching pulpits (minbar, pl. manabir), focusing on Quranic and other religious inscriptions. Quranic verses are the most frequently employed inscription, while other religious texts are occasionally cited. These inscriptions emphasize the benefits of endowing mosques, the significance of minbar placement within the mosque, and practices of Muslim devotion comprising the Friday prayer. This article proposes that inscriptions are specifically chosen to signify the minbar as a place for preaching, both for the Friday noon (ḫuṭba) as well as popular preaching (mawʿiẓa). This is particularly evident in the late Mamluk minbars of Cairo, which bear inscriptions of two prominent components of the ḫuṭba. Furthermore, a unique inscriptional reference to using a minbar for mawʿiẓa is also presented.
A few artefacts can be connected to mediaeval Syria, and more specifically Damascus, through their inscriptions because they mention the city as a place of manufacture or name an individual who lived there. This is notably the case for two hitherto neglected inscribed objects in the Musée du Louvre, dating to the Mamluk sultanate, which are studied in this article: an enamelled glass lamp and a metal drum. New identifications of their recipients, documented through historical sources, bring light to their particular stories and provide new references for studying the material and social culture during this period.
This article examines the origin and spread of Maghribi ṯuluṯ, a distinctive epigraphic style employed on buildings and inscribed artefacts in Northwest Africa and al-Andalus, from the late fifth/eleventh century onwards. The rise of Maghribi ṯuluṯ is part of a wider phenomenon that saw curvilinear scripts adopted in contexts and media previously dominated by angular “Kufic” scripts throughout the Islamic world, from Ghazna to Marrakesh. However, the circumstances of this epigraphic revolution differed from region to region, as did the techniques and stylistic features of the new curvilinear inscriptions. The development of Maghribi ṯuluṯ was the result of influences coming from the Eastern Mediterranean, assimilated and transformed in different ways within the cultural and artisanal milieux of Norman Sicily, Khurasanid Tunis, and the Almoravid Empire further west. This article considers the possible channels through which Maghribi ṯuluṯ spread across these regions – with an emphasis on chancery documents and practices – and how the Almohads ultimately transformed this script into a dynastic “brand” with ideological undertones.
Exploring the representation of space and belonging in Javanese literature, I will use Suparto Brata’s novel Donyane wong culika (The World of the Untrustworthy, 2004) as a case study. Firstly, I will focus on how literary, linguistic and epistemological features shape and give meaning to Javanese spatiality and on how the references to Javanese customs, literary and cultural traditions, and the Javanese mind in the twentieth century may address and evoke feelings of belonging. Secondly, as the novel features historical events as a kind of backdrop, I will pay attention to what Le Juez and Richardson (2019) call the perceptions of associated loci and on how these loci articulate individual and collective memories of the 1965–66 events, a traumatic period in postcolonial Indonesian history.
From the Wei-Jin through Tang-Song periods, social structures and customs in China underwent great change. In the case of sitting positions, these periods saw a shift from the “floor-sitting era” prior to the Qin to the “era of raised sitting” following the Tang and Song dynasties. In the interim, there was a period where the seated squat (juzuo踞坐) made an appearance. This position is depicted in the “Man seated on foreign stool” detail of the scroll painting, Bei Qi jiaoshu tu北齊校 書圖. During the Liu Song dynasty, monks at the Qihuan Temple ate in a seated squat and were vehemently lambasted by scholar-officials led by Fan Tai, instigating political debate around the sitting position. From a Confucian point of view, sitting positions are divided into two categories based on whether the calves or the bottoms of one’s feet touch the ground: the first includes kneeling, the sitting kneel, and the lotus positions, while the second includes squatting, sitting with legs outstretched, and the seated squat positions. Shifts in sitting positions reflect not only subtle changes taking place across various aspects of Chinese social customs and daily life, but also structural change on a systemic level. On the ideological front, obscure learning of the Wei and Jin dynasties exposed abuses of Confucian ethics. Compounded with the onslaught of foreign cultural influences such as Buddhism, it is no wonder, in this context of great historical upheaval, that efforts to preserve Confucianism would end in failure.
The concept of li (rites) in ancient China encompasses three levels of meaning, namely: the rituals and ceremonies themselves, moral ethics, and a system of political hierarchy. While these three levels are related to each other, they each carry specific characteristics. When people today discuss issues such as the origins of rites, they rarely analyze the concept of rites according to these different levels, thus causing the topic at hand to be vague, ambiguous, and inchoate. In most research, both “rites” and the “rituals” refer specifically to the level of the ritual per se. “Rites” include both folk rituals and state rituals, the latter of which refers to what is commonly termed the “rituals,” that is, the part of rites with state background and political coercion. The fundamental difference between the rituals and other statutes and institutions lies in rituals’ performative, symbolic, and standardized nature. Their performative and symbolic nature bestowed upon the rites a special significance and publicity function which transcend everyday life. At the same time, their standardized and formulaic nature made these rites highly organized and institutionalized, while allowing them to reinforce the social and political hierarchy. The highly mature rituals in ancient China allowed both characteristics of these rituals to be developed to their fullest, thus giving rise to Chinese culture’s emphasis on performance and form.
In traditional China’s complicated social system, the interaction between custom and ritual laid the foundation for a national political framework and local societal functions, and has continued to play a role in modern Chinese nation-building since the May Fourth Movement. The essence of this interaction is that it draws together national politics with non-governmental micropolitics; by engaging widespread support from across society, it ensures that society’s internal mechanisms function smoothly through a shared cultural identity, thereby eliminating real or potential social crises. Today, in a time of rapid globalization, all nations are faced with issues such as international regulations, national legal rights, and civil governance. Chinese traditional political wisdom and social mechanisms embedded in the interaction between custom and ritual may be useful.