Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology

Click the images to read the captions :

The Archaeology of Islamisation in eastern Ethiopia

Why do people convert to Islam? The contemporary relevance of this question is immediately apparent. Assessing genuine belief is difficult, but the impact of trade, Saints, Sufis and Holy men, proselytisation, benefits gained from Arabic literacy and administration systems, enhanced power, prestige, warfare, and belonging to the larger Muslim community have all been suggested. Equally significant is the context of conversion. Why were certain sub-Saharan African cities key points for conversion to Islam, e.g. Gao and Timbuktu in the Western Sahel, and Harar in Ethiopia? Archaeological engagement with Islamisation processes and contexts of conversion in Africa is variable, and in parts of the continent research is static.

I am completing archaeological research in eastern Ethiopia to address this question as part of an ERC funded project, “Becoming Muslim: Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Eastern Ethiopia” (694254 ERC-2015-AdG) that started in September 2016. The project is exploring Islamisation and the formation of diverse cultural identities in the region, as well as the origins of urban settlement, and evidence for participation in long distance and regional trade networks (see Current Field Projects).

Islamic Funerary Inscriptions of Bahrain, pre-1900

I am also co-directing with Dr Rachel MacLean, and Dr Salman Almahari of the Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage, a survey of all Islamic funerary inscriptions (pre AD 1900) on Bahrain. This will be published as a monograph (Insoll, T., Almahari, S., and MacLean, R. [Contracted and in Preparation, 2018]. The Islamic Funerary Inscriptions of Bahrain. Pre 1900 CE. [Handbook of Oriental Studies Series] Leiden: Brill). (see Publications).

Book Projects in Progress

In addition to the Bahrain funerary inscriptions monograph I am also currently working on:

1) Insoll, T. (ed.). (In Preparation, 2017). Islamic Archaeology in Africa. Special edition of The Journal of Islamic Archaeology.
2) Walker, B., Insoll, T., and Fenwick, C. (eds.). (In Preparation, 2018). The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

PhD Student Research Projects

Besides my own research projects I am also actively involved in those of my PhD students. These include as either supervisor 1 (S1) or supervisor 2 (S2): Ceramics as chronological markers on Islamic sites in eastern Ethiopia (S1); the archaeology of coin trees and related folklore in the British Isles (S1); reconstructing the use and source of archaeological ceramics from Koma Land, Ghana (S1); neurophenomenological approaches to the evolution of religion (S1); the materiality and archaeological implications of Medicinal practice in Accra (S1); British influence in the Gulf (S1); Funj identity and history in the Sudan (S1); the materiality of early Islamic sects in East Africa (S1), the representation of Islam in British museums (S1); the Relationship between the Dynamics of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management Practices in Tongo Tengzug (joint S1); War on the Southern Frontier of the Ancient State of Egypt (joint S1); The later historical archaeology of plantation life on Zanzibar (joint S1); the construction of voodoo dolls as cultural icons (S2); chemical analysis of archaeological glass from Bahrain and carnelian from western India (S2); mosque architecture and use in Iran (S2); violence in the prehistoric Near East (S2); ship timbers from the Islamic site of Al-Balid (S2); the revival of tribalism in Qatar and Kuwait (S2). Please contact me with your ideas for proposed research and to discuss funding opportunities.