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ISAP III Conference 2006

Documents and the History of the Early Islamic World: A Workshop and Colloquium 23-26 March 2006

Organized by the International Society for Arabic Papyrology in cooperation with the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo and Princeton University

Hosted by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt.

Sponsored by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the British Academy, the Egypt Exploration Society, and Princeton University


The third conference of the International Society for Arabic Papyrology (ISAP) will take place at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt.

It will bring together scholars using documentary evidence to study the history of the early Islamic world, including Arabic, Coptic, and Greek papyri, paper and other documents, as well as epigraphic and numismatic material. Participants may present their research either as 20-minute papers or within the context of workshops on Greek, Coptic, and Arabic papyrology and palaeography.

Conference Background

Scholars working on the medieval Islamic world are often heard to lament the lack of contemporary documentary evidence for this period. This complaint, however, has less to do with survival of documents and archives from early Islam, than with the difficulties in accessing them. Yet the benefits are potentially immense. Early Islamic documents, written not just in Arabic, but in Greek and Coptic, and on papyrus, parchment, cloth, bone, leather potsherds and paper, include every kind of document imaginable: tax receipts, government edicts, marriage contracts, shopping lists, personal letters, passports, religious texts, magical spells, bills of lading, house deeds, even school exercises. Together, these documents have the potential to shine a vivid and detailed new light on Islamic Mediterranean culture and society. The field can no longer afford to be without them. But as new documents are brought to light, adding to the tens of thousands that already exist in collections throughout the Middle East, Europe and North America, the challenge of ensuring that this incomparable resource is properly accounted for and accessible to the larger scholarly community becomes ever greater and ever more critical. The Alexandria conference has been designed as a key step in this direction.

Conference Format

The Conference will include 1) text workshops and 2) sessions for the presentation of 20-minute papers and 3) evening lectures at local research institutes. Although the "official language" of the conference is English, papers and workshops may be given in English, French, German, or Arabic.

Text Workshops

These workshops will focus on a single text, or group of texts, to be circulated in advance. The texts used may be in any of the languages of the documentary sources relevant to the history of early Islamic Egypt and the wider Mediterranean world (Greek, Coptic, or Arabic). A translation of the text should also be circulated to allow for the widest possible participation. The presenter will have the first thirty minutes to introduce the text and its problems, and then the remaining hour will be spent in discussion.

Paper Sessions

There will be several sessions during which three or four 20-minute papers, followed by questions and discussion, will be read. While the topics addressed need not focus exclusively on documentary evidence, it is expected that documentary sources will be an integral and substantive part of each paper.

Evening Lectures

An evening lecture followed by a reception will be held at the Swedish Institute at Alexandria on Thursday, March 23rd at 18:30: Hugh Kennedy (University of St. Andrews), "The Political and Cultural Formation of Early Islamic Egypt".


If you are interested in participating in the guided tour by Peter Grossman at Abu Mina on Monday March 27, please contact one of the organizers. Also, if you intend to participate in the Sunday afternoon visit to the archeological sites in Alexandria, please let us know.

Abstracts and Handouts

The deadline for 400-word abstracts is November 1 2005. Please send abstracts to Lennart Sundelin (sundelin{at} If your presentation will require audio-visual equipment of any kind, please describe what is needed. Notification regarding the acceptance of proposals will be made by the end of November 2005.

Also, please send a copy of all texts and translations to be used in the text workshops by 15 February 2006. These will be made available to participants.


There will be no conference fee charged, but a small fee might be charged for the dinners and the excursion to Abu Mina, which will be waived for ISAP members. Participants who currently have no membership should renew their membership in Alexandria on the first day of the conference. Payments have to be made in cash in Euros, dollars or Egyptian pounds. If you are interested in joining ISAP, information can be found at the ISAP sign-up website.

Please send a notice of intent to participate in the Conference to one of the conference organizers.

Travel Subsidies

It is hoped that the Conference will be able to offer a few awards for scholars not able to get institutional subventions for travel to Alexandria.

Please let us know as soon as possible whether you will be in need for such sponsoring.

Conference Organizers

Lennart Sundelin and Petra Sijpesteijn

if you have any further questions about the Conference, contact: Lennart Sundelin (sundelin{at} or Petra Sijpesteijn (petra.sijpesteijn{at}

ISAP III Conference 2006: Conference Schedule

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