Crafting History: How the World Is Made. The Case of Islamic Archaeology

  • José Cristobal Carvajal López


In this paper an archaeological and theoretical perspective that builds a relationship between the concepts of craft and of identity is presented. Both of them are concepts very widely used in archaeological and anthropological theory nowadays, and they have often been linked in field studies. However, these concepts are usually contemplated from very different points of view and with many diverse implications in each case. One of the aims of this paper is to show that craft and identity can be inserted in a common theoretical framework which in turn can be used to understand cultural change or, in other words, history within culture. The paper will start with a necessary theoretical introduction to different concepts related to craft and identity, and then a discussion on how to link these different concepts will follow. In the last part of the paper, this theoretical perspective will be applied to a field which is familiar to the author, that of Islamic archaeology. A case example of the author’s research in the Vega of Granada (southeast Spain) will be brought to the fore. This part of the paper will show how the theoretical discussion developed above can contribute to solve one of the core questions of this field, that of the definition of an Islamic culture and its application to understand the daily life of people living within it.


Craft Archaeological theory Cultural change Islamic archaeology Islamization 



The writing of this chapter has been made possible by the NPRP Grant 7-551-6-018 from the Qatar National Research Fund. The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the author.

The author wishes to acknowledge the contributions and suggestions of the editors of this book and of Dr. Jessie Slater. Their advices have been sound, and they have helped him to address flaws and unclear elements of this paper. Responsibility for all mistakes and opinions remains solely the author’s, of course.

Dr. Roger Doonan suggested to the author the conceptual idea of human being vs. human doing in a pub conversation, and afterwards the author heard the starting quote of the text in the famous song of Scatman John. Once again, these phrases and concepts have been used in this text under the exclusive responsibility of the author.


  1. Aguirre, F. (2000). Notas Acerca de la Proyección de los Kutub al-Watā’iq en el Estudio Social y Económico de al-Andalus. Miscelánea de Estudios Árabes y Hebraicos. Sección Árabe-Islam, 49, 3–30.Google Scholar
  2. Arnold, D. (1985). Ceramic theory and cultural process. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barrett, J. (1994). Fragments from antiquity. An archaeology of social life in Britain, 2900–1200 BC. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  4. Barrett, J. (2000). A thesis on agency. In M. A. Dobres & J. Robb (Eds.), Agency in Archaeology (pp. 61–68). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Blair, S., & Bloom, J. (2003). The mirage of Islamic art: Reflections on the study of an unwieldy field. The Art Bulletin, 85(1), 152–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bloch, M. (2012). Anthropology and the cognitive challenge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boone, J. (2009). Lost civilization: The contested Islamic past in Spain and Portugal. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  8. Bourdieu, P. (1977 [1972]). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bourdieu, P. (1990 [1980]). The logic of practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  10. Carvajal López, J. C. (2008). La cerámica de Madinat Ilbira y el poblamiento altomedieval de la Vega de Granada. Granada: THARG.Google Scholar
  11. Carvajal López, J. C. (2009). Pottery production and Islam in South-East Spain: A social model. Antiquity, 83, 388–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carvajal López, J. C. (2013). Islamicization or Islamicizations? Expansion of Islam and social practice in the Vega of Granada (South-East Spain). World Archaeology, 45, 56–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carvajal López, J. C. (2014). The archaeology of al-Andalus. Past, present and future. Medieval Archaeology, 58, 318–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carvajal López, J. C., & Day, P. M. (2013). Cooking pots and Islamicisation in the early medieval Vega of Granada (al-Andalus, 6th -12th centuries). Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 32(4), 433–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carvajal López, J. C., & Day, P. M. (2015). The production and distribution of cooking pots in two towns of South-East Spain in the 6th-11th centuries. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 2, 282–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Damasio, A. (2000). The feeling of what happens. Body, emotion and the making of consciousness. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  17. Day, P. M. (2004). Marriage and mobility: traditions and the dynamics of the pottery system in twentieth century east Crete. In P. Betancourt, C. Davaras and R. Hope Simpson (Eds.), Pseira VIII. The Archaeological Survey of Pseira Island, Part 1 (pp. 105–142). Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dietler, M., & Herbich, I. (1998). Habitus, techniques, style: An integrated approach to the social understanding of material culture and boundaries. In M. T. Stark (Ed.), The archaeology of social boundaries. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  19. Dobres, M. A. (2000). Technology and social agency: Outlining a practice framework for archaeology. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  20. Dobres, M. A., & Robb, J. (2000). Agency in archaeology. Paradigm or platitude? In M. A. Dobres & J. Robb (Eds.), Agency in Archaeology (pp. 3–17). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Dunnell, R. C. (1978). Style and function: A fundamental dichotomy. American Antiquity, 43, 192–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Glick, T. F. (1995). From Muslim fortress to Christian castle: Social and cultural change in medieval Spain. Manchester UK: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Gosselain, O. (1998). Social and technical identity in a clay Cristal ball. In M. T. Stark (Ed.), The archaeology of social boundaries. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  25. Gosselain, O. (2000). Materializing identities: An African perspective. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 7, 187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gosselain, O. (2008). Thoughts and adjustments in the Potter’s backyard. In I. Berg (Ed.), Breaking the Mould: Challenging the past through pottery. Oxford: Archaeopress. Ser. BAR International Series S1861 and Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group: Occasional Paper 6.Google Scholar
  27. Gosselain, O. (2010). Exploring the dynamics of African pottery cultures. In Barndon, R., Engevik, A., & Øye, I. (Eds.), The archaeology of regional technologies. Case studies from the Palaeolithic to the age of the Vikings. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.Google Scholar
  28. Gosselain, O. (2011). Fine if I do, fine if I don’t. Dynamics of technical knowledge in Sub-Saharan Africa. In B. W. Roberts & M. Vander Linden (Eds.), Investigating archaeological cultures. Material culture, variability and transmissions (pp. 211–227). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grabar, O. (1973). The formation of Islamic art. New Haven CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hegmon, M. (1992). Archaeological research on style. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 517–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hegmon, M. (1998). Technology, style and social practices: Archaeological approaches. In M. T. Stark (Ed.), The archaeology of social boundaries. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  32. Hodder, I. (1990). Style as historical quality. In M. Conkey & C. Hastorf (Eds.), Uses of style in archaeology (pp. 44–51). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Hodgson, M. G. S. (1974). The venture of Islam. Conscience and history in a world civilization, 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Insoll, T. (1999). The archaeology of Islam. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Jones, A. (2000). Archaeological theory and scientific practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Lemonnier, P. (1993). Introduction. In P. Lemmonier (Ed.), Technological choices. Transformation in material cultures since the Neolithic. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Lewis, B. (2002 [1976]). The faith and the faithful: The lands and peoples of Islam. In B. Lewis (Ed.), The world of Islam: Faith, people, culture (pp. 25–56). London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  38. Mahias, M. C. (1993). Pottery techniques in India. In P. Lemmonier (Ed.), Technological choices: Transformation in material cultures since the Neolithic. Routledge: London and New York.Google Scholar
  39. Malinowski, B. (1961 [1922]). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. New York: E.P. Dutton.Google Scholar
  40. Marranci, G. (2008). The anthropology of Islam. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  41. Marx, K. (2010 [1867]) Capital: a critique of political economy, in (last checked 13/10/2013), updated from the English version of 1887. Moscow: Progress Publishers.
  42. Milwright, M. (2010a). Archaeology and material culture. In C. Robinson (Ed.), The new Cambridge history of Islam Vol. 1: The formation of the Islamic world. Sixth to eleventh centuries (pp. 664–682). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Milwright, M. (2010b). An introduction to Islamic archaeology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pfaffenberger, B. (1992a). The social anthropology of technology. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 491–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pfaffenberger, B. (1992b). Technological dramas. Science, Technology and Human Values, 17, 282–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rice, P. (1984). Change and conservatism in pottery systems. In S. van der Leeuw & A. Pritchard (Eds.), The many dimensions of pottery (pp. 231–288). Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  47. Robb, J. (2010). Beyond agency. World Archaeology, 42, 493–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sackett, J. R. (1985). Style and ethnicity in the Kalahari: A reply to Wiessner. American Antiquity, 50, 154–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  50. Sarre, F. P. T., & Hertzfeld, E. E. (1911-1920). Archaölogische Reise im Euphrat- und Tigris-Gebiet. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer.Google Scholar
  51. Sillar, B., & Tite, M. (2000). The challenge of technological choices for materials science approaches in archaeology. Archaeometry, 41, 2–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stark, M. T. (Ed.). (1998a). The archaeology of social boundaries. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  53. Stark, M. T. (1998b). Technical choices and social boundaries in material culture patterning: An introduction. In M. T. Stark (Ed.), The Archaeology of Social Boundaries. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.Google Scholar
  54. Teres, E. (1958). Linajes árabes en al-Andalus según la Ŷamhara de Ibn Ḥazm. Al-Andalus, 23, 53–376.Google Scholar
  55. van der Leeuw, S. (1976). Studies in the technology of Ancient Pottery. Amsterdam: Universiteit van Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  56. van der Leeuw, S. (1993). Giving the potter a choice: Conceptual aspects of pottery techniques. In P. Lemmonier (Ed.), Technological choices: Transformation in material cultures since the Neolithic. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Vernoit, S. (1997). The rise of Islamic archaeology. Muqarnas, 14, 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Walmsley, A. (2007). Early Islamic Syria: An archaeological assessment. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  59. Wiessner, P. (1983). Style and social information in Kalahari San projectile points. American Antiquity, 48, 253–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wiessner, P. (1985). Style or isochrestic variation? A reply to Sackett. American Antiquity, 50, 160–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wobst, H. M. (1977). Stylistic behavior and information exchange. In C. E. Cleland (Ed.), For the director: Research essays in honor of James B. Griffin. Anthropological papers 61 (pp. 317–342). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Cristobal Carvajal López
    • 1
  1. 1.Archaeology and Ancient HistoryUniversity of Leicester, University RoadLeicesterUK

Personalised recommendations