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The Domestic Architecture of Fustat

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on 7 June 2014

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Transcript of The Domestic Architecture of Fustat

The Houses of Fustāt: Beyond Import and Influence

Modes of Interpretation
Houses of Fustat
Importation and Influence
Previous Interpretations
Experience and Social Use
A Different Approach
A Loss of Innocence
Preliminary Sketches & Future Work
Moving Forward
Matthew Harrison
Archaeological Computing Research Group
University of Southampton

Three Stages
David Clarke's
Archaeology: the loss of innocence
1972, had three stages of disciplinary evolution:

Critical Self-Consciousness
Role of Explanation
Grenville's interpretation of Clarke, reflecting on scholarship of medieval houses in England (1997)

consists of data collection and typologising
explicit explanation of data and types
Critical self-consciousness:
critical reflection on these explanations and underlying theories

Grenville: In first stage explanations for medieval houses are often
illustrative of historical narrative

Clarke: In second stage domains within a discipline
defined by characteristic forms of reasoning
What stage have we reached in the interpretation of the houses of Fustāt?
Context of Fustāt
The Sāmarrā Bayt
Elite Taste and Influence
Problems with Evidence
Historical & Archaeological Data:
Different dating resolutions
Biases towards certain periods: Tūlūnid Horizon?
Limits of houses unclear: linking artefacts & architecture
Problematic context - cesspits

as a
in 641-2 AD
around conquered fortress of Babylon (Qasr ash-Sham )

under Abbāsid and Tūlūnid rule, al- Askar (750 AD) and al-Qata ī (870 AD) founded north of the city.

under Fātimids, most populous city in Islamic world, after founding of new capital al-Qāhira in 969 AD.

in mid 11th century

, reportedly, in 1168
Courtyard Houses 9th-12th c
Typology of Fustāt Houses
(Ostrasz 1977)
(after Ostrasz 1977, plan 2)
10th century terminology for the so-called Sāmarrā
based on al-Mas udī,
Murūj al-dhahab wa ma ādin al-jawhar,
4, pp. 4-5.
The Sāmarrā
represents a form imported from Iraq to Egypt in the reign of Ahmad ibn Tūlūn
Moving Interpretation Forward
Understand why one might adopt architectural form
Relationship to changes in social life
How was the
used, experienced, functioned

Integrating Sources
Cairo Geniza and the Archaeology of Fustāt
Documents of the Jewish community, mainly between 1000-1250
Deeds of house sale describe architecture in contemporaneous terms
Dowries provide the furnishings of the house.
Only durable items
Textiles and Metal
Broken Items
Ceramics and Glass
Patterns and Placement
Carpets and wall hangings:

Geniza mentions "middle piece" and two
, or a


Appear in threes or more, one much more expensive
Transformative Textiles
“…so profuse and costly an item in the outfits…”
Goitein 1983, p117

Carpets/wall hangings, curtains, mattresses/sofas, covers

Few rooms in Geniza deeds have a specific function, adaptability of space using objects and textiles.
Ibn al-Khatib’s account of the Byzantine embassy at in Baghdad in 917 AD in which the palace has 38,000 curtains and wall hangings.
Doors are rarely mentioned in deeds of sale, except on the
itself, boundaries created through textiles.

3D Visualisation
An adaptable, experimental medium
Bring together archaeology and history, architecture and objects
Explore flexibility in data and the material itself
Portable and non-portable material played complementary roles in constituting the experience of space, and its social role
Future Work
Linking artefact collections and dowries
Exploring evidence for use and placement of textiles and other objects
Defining a range of visualisation methodologies, and scales of analysis

Tentative limits of Fustāt-Misr (after Bahgat & Gabriel 1921), surviving monuments and excavations (various sources), against modern Cairo
can we move forward?
20 of the assemblage of 39 courtyard houses of this period, from Scanlon's excavations (after Ostrasz 1977)

Possible Pasts
Maqāmāt al-Harīrī:
The Hour of Birth (1237 AD, Baghdad); The Wedding Banquet (1225-35 AD, Baghdad). (Ettinghausen 1962, p121 and p113)
Bahgat, A., & Gabriel, A. (1921). Fouilles d’al Foustât : publiées les auspices du Comité de conservation des monuments de l'art arabe (p. 128). Paris: E. de Boccard.
Clarke, D. (1973). Archaeology: the loss of innocence. Antiquity, XLVII, 6–18.
Ettinghausen, R. (1977). Arab painting. Geneva: Skira.
Goitein, S. D. (1983). A Mediterranean society : the Jewish communities of the Arab world as portrayed in the documents of the Cairo Geniza. Vol.4 Daily life (p. 487). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Grenville, J. (1997). Medieval Housing. London and New York: Leicester University Press.
Ostrasz, A. A. (1977). The archaeological material for the study of the domestic architecture at Fustat. Africana Bulletin, 26, 57–86.

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