The Peopling of the World from the Perspective of Language, Genes and Material Culture
This volume provides the most up-to-date and holistic but compact account of the peopling of the world from the perspective of language, genes and material culture, presenting a view from the Himalayas. The phylogeny of language families, the chronology of branching of linguistic family trees and the historical and modern geographical distribution of language communities inform us about the spread of languages and linguistic phyla. The global distribution and the chronology of spread of Y chromosomal haplogroups appears closely correlated with the spread of language families. New findings on ancient DNA have greatly enhanced our understanding of the prehistory and provenance of our biological ancestors. The archaeological study of past material cultures provides yet a third independent window onto the complex prehistory of our species.
Cities of Medieval Iran brings together studies in urban geography, archaeology, and history of medieval Iranian cities, spanning the Islamic period until ca. 1500, but also the pre-Islamic situation. The cities and their inhabitants take centre stage, they are not just the places where something else happened. Urban actors are given priority over external factors. The contributions take a long-term perspective and thus take the interaction between urban centres and their hinterland into account. Many contributions come from history or archaeology, but new disciplines are also methodologically integrated into the study of medieval cities, such as the arts of the book, lexicography, geomorphology, and digital instruments.

Contributors include Denise Aigle, Mehrdad Amanat, Jean Aubin, Richard W. Bulliet, Jamsheed K. Choksy, David Durand-Guédy, Etienne de la Vaissière, Majid Montazer Mahdi, Roy P. Mottahedeh, Jürgen Paul, Rocco Rante, Sarah Savant, Ali Shojai Esfahani, Donald Whitcomb and Daniel Zakrzewski.
Author: Denise Aigle

Abstract

Shiraz is distinguished from other cities due to its reputation as the city of saints and poets, as previously emphasised in the title of Arberry’s book of 1960: “Shiraz, Persian City of Saints and Poets”. In textual sources, the city is the “Fortress of saints” (burj al-awliyāʾ). Shiraz owes its sanctity to the many mausoleums dedicated to the descendants of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (and Šāh-i Čirāġ), as well as famous mystics such as Šayḫ Kabīr (d. 371/982) and Rūzbihān Baqlī (d. 606/1209). The poets Saʿdī (d. 691/1292) and Ḥāfiẓ (d. 792/1390) celebrated Shiraz as the city of roses and nightingales. Their sanctuaries, which still the object of pious visits, accentuate the “capital” of city’s sacrality.

After reconstructing the urban space in which the sacred buildings are located, the purpose of this paper is to show how the specific sanctity of the city emerged from the textual sources. Two major texts addressing the sanctity of Shiraz date from the eighth/fourteenth century. In the Šīrāz-nāma (completed in 744/1343), Ibn Zarkūb unfolds the history of the city and speaks of its merits. In Šadd al-īzār (ca. 791/1389), a guide for pilgrimage to Shiraz’s seven cemeteries, Junayd Šīrāzī describes the ritual geography of the city. He notes the places where the Shirazis are buried, thus establishing the symbolic presence of the deceased among the living. Alid shrines in particular thus contributed to the “capitalisation of the sacred” in Shiraz.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
Author: Jürgen Paul

Abstract

The current article deals with the forms of local rule at Balkh in the Seljuq and post-Seljuq period up to the Mongol invasion. At all times we observe relatively high degrees of regional autonomy, in which local rulers were far more than “governors”. Balkh was a regional state, or “minimal beylik”, at times included within larger imperial structures and at others continuing more on its own. Military manpower was frequently provided by Turkish nomads (Ghuzz), who are seen throughout the period as a powerful regional force. Urban notables (aʿyān) played a decisive role in local rule, in particular the qadis, who judged according to sharia rules, and the raʾīs, in charge of fiscal and administrative affairs. Besides these office holders the sayyids must also have been important, alongside other Muslim scholars, mostly Hanafi. Balkh therefore is another example for the amīr-aʿyān system, as has been described in detail for other Iranian cities of the Seljuq period. In the post-Seljuq era the situation continues but becomes more unstable. Hereditary lines of emirs emerge again and again, but the sources do not offer a clear picture of the chronological and prosopographic details.

The paper draws on general historiography, the extant city history and other narrative and non-narrative sources, as well as numismatic evidence.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This article presents an exposition of the fortifications around Isfahan based on fieldwork and a thorough analysis of written sources and the available satellite images, processed with new GIS technologies. The fortress of Šāhdiz, of Ismaili fame, is well known and documented in the written sources, however the major conclusion of the current research is that in fact a network of fortifications was developed, strategically located to afford observation and communication. The heights surrounding Isfahan were exploited to full potential, gaining security over roads and settlement processes, which in turn contributed to urban growth. The evolution of this network conformed with the trends of urbanisation: as long as the main towns remained Qih and Jayy, it was the mountains in the east of the rustāq of Isfahan that played the decisive role. But from the fourth/tenth century onward, with the growth of Yahūdiyya and the integration of the southern province of Fars and Khuzistan in the Buyid and Saljuq polities, it was the fortified of sites in the mountainous areas south of Zāyanda-rūd that were key to securing the access roads.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
Author: Donald Whitcomb

Abstract

The title is taken from an article published in 2006 by Hugh Kennedy that is an examination of the Sasanian city. This subject is re-examined with a presentation of archaeological information on Sasanian cities in Fars province and the city of Jundi Shapur in Khuzistan. The urban form and key institutions are presented with consideration of changes introduced with the Islamic period. In contrast to the Classical polis, the problem is limited information on urban element in Sasanian cities and some of these elements are described.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

What can the history of books tell us about Iranian cities and their histories? This article introduces the manuscript of a multi-text compilation (majmūʿa) for the purpose of illustrating its potential usefulness as a source for studying the social and cultural history of Shiraz in the turbulent period that followed the collapse of Mongol rule in the area. We specifically seek to show that Köprülü 01589, now housed in Istanbul, helps us to see how books were produced and consumed, and provides insight into the operations of a busy workshop for copying texts. Despite the rarity and historical significance of several of the pieces that it contains, the availability of images of the manuscript for some time in Istanbul and Iran, and attention to it in catalogues, it has not received scholarly attention as a whole. Although this article is only a preliminary study of a single manuscript, we believe it is important for the current volume in showing what manuscripts can reveal of the social world that produced them, the networks of people and ideas that animated city life, and the cultural resources of specific times and places. Furthermore, our approach to Köprülü 01589 can be expanded and applied to other manuscripts originating in Shiraz and other cities.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This article presents recent archaeological discoveries on the Buddhist monasteries, the irrigation system and defence systems of the oasis of Balkh, intending to explore the depth of the gap between these central features of the oasis landscape and the transmitted early Islamic texts describing the site. The Fażāʾil-i Balḫ and the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam do provide us with some data but the archaeology allows a detailed demonstration of how many parts of the pre-Islamic past were quickly forgotten or reinterpreted in the following centuries.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
Author: Rocco Rante

Abstract

This article attempts a long-term perspective on cities and water from Late Antiquity to the early Islamic centuries (until ca. 1000 CE). It focuses on the question of how cities and their agricultural hinterland were supplied with water. The topography of the site, its geomorphological features, are shown to influence both the setup and subsequent history of the cities. The article uses two sets of examples, one chosen from the Iranian plateau where qanāt irrigation predominates, and the other one from Persianate Central Asia (Transoxiana), where water is derived from larger and medium-sized rivers. The type of irrigation influences the ways in which the city grows, and more generally, the layout of the city is also determined by the water supply. Cities tend to grow towards the source of water, and it can also be observed that in many cases, the political and administrative centre is located where the best water is available. One of the major questions is whether imperial will was behind the construction of irrigation systems or whether local players such as landlords were the decisive factor.

The article combines archaeological research and the study of textual sources but is mostly based on recent archaeological fieldwork.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This article deals with the history of Isfahan during the five centuries between the arrival of the Turks and the beginning of the Safavid period. It attempts to identify the continuities and ruptures from three different perspectives: To what extent can we speak of an urban decline? What was the relationship of the Isfahanis with the imperial rulers? How did the general context impact the makeup and the organisation of the society? It appears that Isfahan demonstrated remarkable resilience over the period, and that it is only beginning with the Timurid period that we can speak of a decline. Likewise, there is remarkable continuity in the ways in which the local elites collaborated with or resisted the imperial players. The role of the Ṣāʿid family, which held the cadial function over four centuries, is emblematic in this respect. Conversely, under special circumstances, the imperial players were able to exert great substantial influence on the local communities, and it is this political backing which explains the strengthening of the Hanafis in the sixth/twelfth century, and that of the Shiis in the following. One of the main accomplishments of this synthesis view of Isfahan history is that it assesses the effects of the Mongol domination relative to that of other periods.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This article analyses the history of Tabriz from the late sixth/twelfth to the end of the ninth/fifteenth century. It develops the thesis that the local elites played an active and important role in determining a specific sequence of dynasties passing through the Mongols to the Safavids. Through a focus on two leading families, the analysis elucidates how Mongol rule transformed local society. Urban elites generally retained their status throughout the period, while rural elites gained new influence beginning with the time of Mongol rule.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This essay first attempts to explain why the Iranian city of Kashan is where it is and then how it came to grow.

Extensive use of irrigation allowed an adequate and perhaps abundant agriculture in the surrounding region. The arrival of substantial numbers of Arab immigrants in Kashan in the early Islamic period played an important role in the city’s development and its continuation as a center of Shiʿism. A strong educational tradition produced many talented Kashani officials, who served in the Saljuq and later administrations and sent some of their wealth back to Kashan.

It was also in the Saljuq period that Kashan gained a reputation for its production of luxury ceramics. Artisanal traditions were passed from generation to generation and contributed to exports of brass, and especially of textiles, which continued for centuries. Wealthy Kashanis (probably including a fair number of sayyids) invested heavily in charitable endowments, which served the poor and furthered learning in general. In the Timurid period, investments in mathematical education produced several outstanding mathematicians and astronomers. Tax yields from the medieval period may indicate the increasing prosperity of Kashan.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

Medieval Arabic to Persian dictionaries are a relatively untapped source for the conceptual world in the time of their authors. This essay closely examines four such dictionaries from the late fifth/eleventh century to the seventh/thirteenth century written in eastern Iran. These dictionaries are quite rich in terminology for cities, towns, farmland, pasture and desert. They also describe architectural features of buildings. They offer scant but valuable information on markets and social structure. The information from these dictionaries combined with the rich detail available in the Islamic geographers of the third/ninth and fourth/tenth century allows us to form a more perfect picture of medieval Iranian society.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

Given the high cost of premodern land transport, inland cities not serviced by any sort of water transport were quite rare before the appearance of motorized vehicles. The emergence of Nishapur in northeastern Iran as the Abbasid caliphate’s second largest metropolis, with a population over 150,000 in the year 1000, thus presents a problem. That it was neither a major governing center during most of its growth period, nor a transshipment node or pilgrimage site, compounds the problem. This article proposes a set of economic, geographic, and social circumstances that taken together may account for its flourishing. It further suggests that these same factors contributed to the city’s emerging distinction as a Muslim religious and cultural center.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran

Abstract

This article explores what is known and not known about Yazd and its nearby settlements from antiquity through the ninth/fifteenth century. The article begins with deliberation on the location of the city in pre-Islamic and Islamic times. The investigation expands to include examination of the urban center, its polity and faith-based communities, the arrival and flourish of Islam, plus the survival of Zoroastrianism and Judaism there. Reconstruction and new construction, administrative and economic activities, and roads and waterways within the wider Dašt-i Yazd (‘Yazd plain/valley’) are discussed in relation to the city.

In: Cities of Medieval Iran
Moving Frontiers, Shifting Identities in the Land of Rome (13th-15th Centuries)
Warriors, Martyrs, and Dervishes: Moving Frontiers, Shifting Identities in the Land of Rome (13th-15th Centuries) focuses on the perceptions of geopolitical and cultural change, which was triggered by the arrival of Turkish Muslim groups into the territories of the Byzantine Empire at the end of the eleventh century, through intersecting stories transmitted in Turkish Muslim warrior epics and dervish vitas, and late Byzantine martyria. It examines the Byzantines’ encounters with the newcomers in a shared story-world, here called “land of Rome,” as well as its perception, changing geopolitical and cultural frontiers, and in relation to these changes, the shifts in identity of the people inhabiting this space. The study highlights the complex relationship between the character of specific places and the cultural identities of the people who inhabited them.
Author: Yaron Friedman
In The Shīʿīs in Palestine Yaron Friedman offers a survey of the presence of Shīʿism in the region of Palestine (today: Israel) from early Islamic history until the contemporary period. It brings to light many pieces of information and interesting developments that are not widely known, in addition to the general point that, contrary to common belief, the Shīʿī community has played a significant role in the history of Palestine. The volume includes a study of Shīʿī shrines in Palestine, as well as showing the importance of these Muslim sites and holy towns in Palestine in the Shīʿī religion.
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
In: The Shīʿīs in Palestine
Territory and Belonging in the Medieval and Early Modern Middle East and Mediterranean
Volume Editor: Steve Tamari
Grounded Identities: Territory and Belonging in the Medieval and Early Modern Middle East and Mediterranean is a collection of essays on attachment to specific lands including Kurdistan, Andalusia and the Maghrib, and geographical Syria in the pre-modern Islamicate world. Together these essays put a premium on the affective and cultural dimensions of such attachments, fluctuations in the meaning and significance of lands in the face of historical transformations and, at the same time, the real and persistent qualities of lands and human attachments to them over long periods of time. These essays demonstrate that grounded identities are persistent and never static.

Contributors are: Zayde Antrim, Alexander Elinson, Mary Hoyt Halavais, Boris James, Steve Tamari.