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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities

Research project: Identity and the life course in Islamic Écija

Currently Active:

The Islamic necropolis at Écija, comprising more than 4,500 inhumations, is the largest excavated medieval cemetery in Iberia. The Islamic necropolis in Écija, in southern Andalucía, has been fully excavated by the Junta de Andalucía (Consejería de Cultura) with support of the local Imam.

Over 6,000 burials (more than 4,500 individuals) have been recovered. This project examines skeletal markers of identity in a medieval Islamic group from Andalucía. It assesses the biological diversity and ethnicities of the population, examines the evidence for past diet and the relative compliance with religious food laws, and evaluates the relative gender differences in activity patterns and the life course.

The town of Écija was of major importance during the Islamic period due to its location, due to its strategic location in the Guadalquivir valley on a natural transport/communication route (with associated control of resources, including olive oil), its early Islamic conquest (being also the site of a major battle in AD711) and the interaction of Muslims with local Christian and Jewish populations. This study considers ethnicity and identity (indigenes and migrants) through analysis of skeletal morphology and the isotopic composition of teeth from a sub-sample of the population. Patterning within age and sex categories for activity-related markers associated with repeated ritual behaviours, such as praying, is also assessed.

The following series of questions will be answered within this project:

  1. How diverse was the ethnic composition of the Islamic population? From where did the Islamic immigrants derive? To what extent did the indigenous community convert to Islam? Did this vary with the relative extent of Islamic conquest in Iberia?
  2. Was the Islamic population following proscribed dietary laws? Did the different religious groups use the same food resources? Was there variation in diet and hence in health between the religious communities?
  3. Were the male or female populations following proscribed differences in activity? Did the distance from the religious centre have an effect upon gender roles? Does social ranking affect the degree of religious conformity?
  4. Were there differences in the male and female life course? Does age or religious affiliation have an effect upon social construction? Does the relative strength of the Islamic caliphate affect gender roles within each society?

Related research groups

Centre for Applied Archaeological Analyses
Classical and historical archaeology
Examining skeletal remains
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