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.

As Principal Investigator, I am directing archaeological research in eastern Ethiopia to address these questions 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).

The Islamic Funerary Inscriptions of Bahrain, pre-1900 CE

This project, co-directed with Dr Rachel MacLean, and Dr Salman Almahari of the Directorate of Archaeology and Heritage, has completed a survey of all Islamic funerary inscriptions (pre-1900 CE) on Bahrain. The results are being published as a monograph (Insoll, T., Almahari, S., and MacLean, R. [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

Current publication projects are:

  •  Edited Book. Walker, B., Insoll, T., and Fenwick, C. (eds.). (In Preparation, 2019). The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Archaeology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Monograph. Insoll, T. (In Preparation, 2020). Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective.

PhD Student Research Projects

My current and past PhD student research projects as either supervisor 1 (S1) or supervisor 2 (S2) are:

  • 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)
  • Chinese Ceramic Consumption Practices in East Africa (10th-17th Centuries AD) (S1)
  • The legacy of Britain’s advisory role in the former Persian Gulf Residency states (S2)
  • Funj identity and history in the Sudan (S1)
  • The materiality of early Islamic sects in the Quirimbas Islands, Mozambique (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 analyses 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, Oman (S2)
  • The revival of tribalism in Qatar and Kuwait (S2)

Please contact me with your ideas for proposed research and to discuss funding opportunities.