Institut für den Nahen und Mittleren Osten



Webinar in Islamic Material Culture

The Rise of an Agricultural Empire: Economy and Material Culture in the Early Islamic Empire


Bi-Weekly, Wednesday, 4-6 pm CEST Starting April 6, 2016

Islamic Material Culture

The Universität Bonn (Bethany Walker), the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich (Andreas Kaplony), The Bard Graduate Center in New York (Abigail Balbale), and Universität Hamburg (Stefan Heidemann) are co-operating in setting up a series of webinars in Archaeology of the Middle East, Arabic Papyrology, Islamic Arts and material Culture, and Numismatics of the Middle East.

Why Agriculture?

Why agriculture and the Early Islamic Empire in material culture? Not at least Bulliet's book about the cotton boom (2009) in the Early Empire stimulated the discourse about agriculture and elite culture of the Early Islamic Empire. The webinar tutorial explores different aspects of this agriculture boom in case studies from Central Asia to the Iberian Peninsula. We see a continuation and improvement in efficiency of established forms of irrigation from Late Antiquity to the Early Islamic Empire. The new Muslim elites turned into a landholding class establishing estates and luxurious mansions. The new imperial metropolises created an unprecedented demand in foodstuff, which was answered by more land under cultivation and new more efficient ways of production. Food and had to be transported, and maritime and river routes were established. While some of this development can be explored through text, material culture and archaeology allows new ways to see this boom in detail. Guest lecturers will include, Corisande Fenwick (University College London), Abigale Balbale (The Bard Graduate Center, New York), Sören Stark, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World), and Kristoffer Damgaard, (Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen), and Bethany Walker (Universität Bonn).

The webinar is part of the 'Webinar Initiative in Islamic Material Culture' jointly organized by the Bard Graduate Center, New York, Universität Bonn, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, and Universität Hamburg.

Prerequisites for Participation

Spoken and written proficiency in English language. The course is open to all advanced students in B.A., M.A., and PhD programs of Islamic studies, historians, art historians, and archaeologists of the Middle East. All students need a computer, a reliable internet access, and a headset. In a personal online short skype interview in early April 2016, we will check whether all technical assets are working. Students from Hamburg have to sign up in the campus system 'Stine' and to contact Stefan Heidemann as early as possible to register and get the necessary introduction into the technology. Students from other universities than Universität Hamburg are welcome and have to apply with a short CV and a motivation letter in English until March, 15, 2016. These will be emailed to Prof. Stefan Heidemann at: Preference is given to students from universities within the network of the webinar initiative "Islamic Material Culture".

  • 1 Wed, 6 Apr. 2016: S. Heidemann: Introduction: The Rise of an Agricultural Empire
  • 2 Wed, 20 Apr. 2016: S. Stark, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University: The Irrigation and Investment in the Oasis of Bukhara
  • 3 Wed, 4 May 2016: C. Fenwick, University College London: Transition of the Rural Landscape in Ifriqiya. The Material Evidence.
  • 4 Wed, 1 June 2016: S. Heidemann, Universität Hamburg: Rural Landscape of the Diyar Mudar
  • 5 Wed, 15 June 2016: A. Balbale, The Bard Graduate Center, New York: Umayyad Rural Estates in the Islamic West
  • 6 Wed. 29 June 2016: K. Damgaard, Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen: Red Sea Trade. The Evidence of Amphora
  • 7 Wed, 13 July 2016: B. Walker: Water technologies and terrace agriculture in southern Syria

More information at: