The 6th conference on history of Bilad al-Sham, part 2
Syria, History, 11/13/2001
In a statement to ArabicNews on the sideline of the 6th International Conference on the History of Bilad al-Sham concluded in Damascus on November 12, British researcher Alison McQuitty of the of the CBRL Visiting Research Fellow said that this conference is a very important event because it brings together historians and archaeologists who are all trying to describe and analyze the past.
She added: " I hope there will be more frequent events because through archaeology, we can learn about the social and economic life of communities which is not recorded in history." She said her presentation to the conference is under the title of:" between Bedouin and Fellah: Khirbat Faris, a rural settlement on the kerak Plateau, Jordan." She said that the historical information suggests that rural settlement on the Kerak Plateau was dense and thriving throughout the 11th- 16th centuries but later declined in intensity during the Ottoman period. She added that these settlements are referred to as villages, a term implying settled communities.
She said that Archaeological survey work points to minimal settlements in the 10th- 12th centuries rising to a peak in the 13th- 14th centuries with the total number of settlements increasing in the 15th / 16th centuries although these later settlements are much more ephemeral and may indicate a move towards pastoralism and seasonally occupied sites. She said the excavation at Khirbet Faris,, she explained, suggests, for that site and perhaps for others in the area, there was residential occupation during the 9th- 12th centuries. The evidence for this period of occupation mainly comes from cleared out material and rubbish pits.
She explained that in the 11th-16th centuries Seljuk and Mamluk historians like Ibn Jubeir and William of Tyre tell us there were lot of villages and Kerak itself was important for the crusaders and for the Mamluk Sultans., noting that " so this excavation project is looking at how these villages were; what the houses looked like, what kind of pottery the people were using and from where it came.
She said:" we also look at the kind of economy in Mamluk time, each house hold grew what and barely and also crops brought from the east with the expansion of the Islamic empire like cotton from India and Citrus from China."
She added that people at that area also used to have flocks, sheep, goats and a lot of cattle. She indicated that most of the houses were built in the 4th century when Kerak was at the height of its importance.
About his presentation on the Sufi Legend of Sultan Ibrahim, Bin. Adham by SATO Tsugitaka of the University of Tokyo said in 1987 " I first encountered Sultan Ibrahim in the Syrian town of Jabala where it is believed that his body was buried ." He added that since that time he has collected the sources related to his legend with the assistance of the later renowned Syrian researcher G. Saade and other Syrian friends in Lattakia and the town of Jabala.
He said that Sultan Ibrahim bin Adham, Bin Mansur al-Balkhi al- Ijli, Abu Ishaq ( d. 777-8) was one of the most prominent mystics in the early history of Sufism, particularly celebrated for his asceticism. He was born in Balkh on the east of Khurasan, into a family from the Kufa. According to the Arabic and Persian sources like al- Bukhari ( d. 870) and many other Ibrahim Bin Adham, receiving a warning from God, abdicated his throne in Balkh to take up the ascetic life in Syria.
He said that when we investigate the sources chronologically, it is evident that his legend enlarged gradually from al-Bukhari to Abu Nu'aym al-Isfahani. He said that in his presentation to the conference he intends to trade the process of this enlarging, focused on the story of his penitence. He continued that the legend of Sultan Ibrahim, after its full formation around the eleventh century, expanded to central Asia under the Mongols, Anatolia under the Ottoman rule, North India in the age of the Tughluqids, and Malaysia during the seventeenth century as revealed in the works by R. Jones.
In his presentation " Muslim fortifications in Bilad al-Sham in the era of the Crusaders" Hugh Kennedy said that in the past century and a half there had been a vast amount of scholarly literature on the subject of Crusader castles in Bilad al-Sham. In contrast, he said, there has been, until recently, very little scientific investigations of Muslim fortification. He said that this position is now beginning to change. He said that in his paper he describes the general outlines of Muslim military architecture.
He continued that the coming of the Crusaders did not result in a program of new fortifications. " we have almost no surviving monuments from the early 12th century," he said noting that it is not until the time of Nur al-Din ( 1146-1174) that Muslim rulers began a program of castle building. Even then the buildings were mostly small scale developments of city walls ( as in Nur al-Din's work in the walls of Damascus).
He explained that under the Ayyubids, we find major building projects, especially urban castles like Damascus and Aleppo which owe their basic designs to al-Malik al-Adil ( 1200-1218) and al-Malik al-Zahir ( 1186-1216). He said that in the woks of these two rulers " we see buildings and strong and developed as anything the Franks constructed, with massive vaulted stone towers, machicolations and arrow-slits. We see scientific fortification, designed for defense against "manjaniqs" of the period.
The 6th International conference on the history of Bilad al-Sham
The replica of the Early Syrian Christian Censer of Deir Mar Musa arrived back from the British Museum
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