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Becoming Muslim: Cultural Change, Everyday Life and State Formation in early Islamic North Africa (600-1000)

Project description

Uncovering everyday life during the Islamic Golden Age

The Muslim conquests of North Africa in the 7th century had a fundamental impact on local communities, transforming urban landscapes, establishing a vast trading system and introducing new agricultural practices, technologies and cultural customs. However, existing knowledge reflects the experiences of rulers and the elite, overlooking those of the general population. The EU-funded EVERYDAYISLAM project will investigate the spread of Islamic ways of life in North Africa, focussing on the impact of Muslim rule on local populations, housing, agriculture and everyday practices. To achieve this, the project will rely on new excavation findings, advanced scientific analysis, legacy data sets and written sources. A comparative methodology will be used to study long-term changes in the central Medjerda valley in Tunisia, the fertile Sebou basin in the Idrisid state and the Saharan oasis belt of the Wadi Draa in Morocco.

Objective

The Muslim conquests of North Africa in the 7th century transformed the everyday lives of communities– between 800-1000, the region experienced an economic ‘Golden Age’, visible in the growth of urban populations, intensified exchange across a vast trading system and the introduction of new agricultural practices and technologies. New social-religious norms underpinned the development of a distinctly ‘Islamic cultural package’ marked by the spread of new aesthetics, public and private architecture and Muslim dietary practices. Despite significant recent advances, much of our knowledge continues to reflect the experience of rulers and elites, rather than the bulk of the population. Our understanding of the timing and process of these innovations is hampered by a reliance on later literary sources, monumental architecture and the high arts, the absence of high-resolution archaeological data and an incomplete understanding of what these changes meant for the people living on the ground. Through new excavations and scientific analysis using state-of the-art methods, legacy datasets and written sources, this project will explore the underlying reasons for the spread of Islamic way of life in North Africa between ca. 600-1000 CE. In so doing, this project aims to make a paradigmatic shift in scholarly understanding of the impact of Muslim rule by focusing on local populations, their houses and their everyday practices. It will take a comparative approach and study long-term changes in housing, agriculture, diet and technology in three key regions: 1) the central Medjerda valley in Tunisia, the famed granary of Roman and Islamic Africa; 2) the fertile Sebou Basin in Morocco, at the centre of the Idrisid state; 3) the Saharan oasis belt of the Wadi Draa in Morocco, on the margins of settled life. The ambitious objective is to rewrite the history of Muslim rule and the Islamisation of daily life from the perspective of the communities living through this pivotal period.

Host institution

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON
Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 688,00
Address
GOWER STREET
WC1E 6BT London
United Kingdom

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Region
London Inner London — West Camden and City of London
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 1 498 688,00

Beneficiaries (1)