Review of Early Islamic Syria by Alan Walmsley.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
A. Asa Eger, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: The field of Islamic archaeology over the last thirty years has come into its own, largely as a subfield of Near Eastern archaeology. In the last decade alone, there has been a sharp increase in the number of excavations targeting Islamic sites or Islamic occupations overlaying other sites, more surveys by Islamic specialists, and special sessions in major archaeology conferences (such as ICAANE and ASOR). From all this research there is now a sizeable body of publications. However, with such rapid growth comes the need to define the field (not only as a subfield of Islamic history or art history), to establish theoretical and methodological parameters, and to present a set of challenges for investigative inquiry. Further, insights offered by recent research in the field of Islamic archaeology should be accessible to students and non-specialists alike. These criteria have all been met by Alan Walmsley’s recent Early Islamic Syria, a volume in the Duckworth Debates in Archaeology series. This volume has a narrow focus: the area of Syria-Palestine (including also Lebanon, Jordan, and part of southeastern Turkey) from the seventh to tenth centuries. Yet, within this focus, Walmsley charts the development of Islamic archaeology, and places it within a framework of important debated issues, such as seventh century or Abbasid decline, the use and interpretation of material culture, and the underdeveloped study of rural landscapes. These issues have trailed the discipline from its very inception. The author’s approach is advantageous as the book is neither a review nor a general survey of the field. Walmsley gathers most of the previous research in the field of Islamic archaeology and confronts the debates headlong with a steady, yet comprehensive and positivist momentum, resolving most issues, elaborating on others, and constructing newer ones. Further, Walmsley increases the relevance of Islamic archaeology by charging it with an implicit obligation to correct contemporary misconceptions of Islam in Western culture.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2011
archaeology, book reviews, Islamic Syria, Islamic archaeology, archaeological assessment

Email this document to