4A Lab Seminar
Aila Santi: Rethinking ʿAnjar: New Data From the Field and Preliminary Considerations
'Anjar, Lebanon: view of the site mosque. Picture by Aila Santi, 2020.
Located in a corner of the Biqāʿ Valley, ʿAnjar remains one of the most significant Umayyad foundations in Greater Syria. With a urban fabric shaped in compliance with the Hippodamian criteria, ʿAnjar played a key role in the process of demolishing the Orientalist stereotype of the “Islamic City” as a cluttered and picturesque entity. Despite the importance of the site has been recognized and emphasized by many scholars, its origins, purpose, and history remain a major enigma in the field. This talk, which draws on recent field surveys carried out by the author, will provide a detailed assessment of the archaeological evidence pertaining the site´s mosque. Through a careful examination of the surviving structures, cross-referenced with some unpublished archive pictures, it will attempt to identify and decode the complex architectural stratigraphy of the building and provide a preliminary sequence of the construction phases that the building underwent. The talk will also address the relationship of the mosque to the adjacent palace, suggesting that the complex was closely linked to a spectacular state liturgy. This final hypothesis will provide a platform for speculations about Byzantine-Islamic transitions in the area, especially for what concerns the development of models of courtly behavior and the establishment of royal legitimacy in the Marwanid period.
Aila Santi, Ph.D., is currently a Newton Postdoctoral Fellow at SOAS University, London, and is working on a research project on the early Islamic topography of Madīna. She was trained at La Sapienza University of Rome, where she earned her PhD in Archaeology in 2019 with a dissertation entitled “The relationship between Mosque and Dār al-Imāra in the Early Islamic period: The study cases of Madīna, Kūfa and ʿAnjar in the light of a reassessment of the urbanism of the origins”. As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the American University of Beirut (2019-2020), she carried out research at the site of ʿAnjar in the Biqā, Lebanon. She also worked as a member of the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Iraqi Kurdistan (MAIKI) at the sites of Erbil and Sulaymaniyya. Her principal field of interest is the early Islamic urban archaeology of the central lands of the caliphate, with special regard to the formation and development of the monumental language of the Muslim élite.
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