Thinking about the Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa

Date: October 30, 2012
Place: Draper’s Hall, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan
Time: 4.30-6.00 pm


The subject of the archaeology of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa is a vast one. Although introduced where necessary, the emphasis in the lecture is not upon culture historical sequences. Instead, this lecture will consider the material from an interpretive perspective focusing on what archaeology tells us about processes of conversion to Islam, Muslim identities and materiality, and how Islam was fitted into existing requirements and beliefs through the agency of syncretism and adaptation. Examples will be drawn from across the African continent south of the Sahara and from the earliest Muslim contacts with the region in the 7th century AD through to more recent historical archaeology. Both past and recent archaeological research will be reviewed, and by way of conclusion potential future research directions considered.

Timothy Insoll is Professor of Archaeology at the University of Manchester. Prior to this he obtained his doctorate and was a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. He has particular interests in Islamic archaeology and the archaeology of African indigenous religions. He has completed archaeological fieldwork in Gao and Timbuktu in Mali, the Dahlak Islands in Eritrea, in Uganda, and on Pemba and Zanzibar Islands, and is currently co-directing a major project in northern Ghana. He has also directed excavations of Islamic sites on Bahrain where he is helping in the establishment of a new museum, and undertook archaeological survey in Gujarat in western India. Professor Insoll is the author and editor of fourteen books including The Archaeology of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2003), his most recent book is the edited collection, the Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Ritual and Religion (Oxford University Press, 2011). He is also the author of many research papers and reviews.

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