Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Prior to the advent of mass air travel Muslims performing the pilgrimage (hajj) to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina were faced with long, expensive, and often physically arduous journeys by land and sea. In most cases, these routes predated the birth of Islam and had long been employed by merchant caravans, armies, and travellers. The annual movement of large numbers of Muslims along both roads and sea routes naturally brought with it significant economic considerations. Most important was the supply of foodstuffs to pilgrims although money might also be given to nomadic groups to protect caravans from banditry. Much of the financing was provided by the Muslim polities through which the main hajj routes ran, but food and other supplies were also purchased by individual pilgrims from merchants, artisans and farmers along the way. Temporary markets were sometimes established in rural areas in order to benefit from the passage of the hajj, while pilgrims might sell valuable goods en route in order to pay for the onward journey. Lastly, there is evidence for the creation of crafts devoted to the production of tokens of pilgrimage. These varied forms of economic activity have left numerous traces in the archaeological and historical records. This talk discusses that evidence with a particular focus on the route leading from Damascus to Mecca in the period from the late thirteenth to the end of the nineteenth century (the Mamluk and Ottoman sultanates). The annual passage of the hajj caravan radically transformed the extent and nature of trade in the regions bordering the road in ways that can still be seen today.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Suraiya Faroqhi, Pilgrims and Sultans: The Hajj under the Ottomans, 1517–1683 (London and New York: I B Tauris, 1994).
Marcus Milwright, An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology, New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), chapter 8 (pp. 159-73).
F. Peters, Mecca: A literary History of the Muslim Holy Land (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
Andrew Petersen, Medieval and Ottoman Hajj Route in Jordan: An Archaeological and Historical Study, Levant Supplementary Series 12 (Oxford and Oakville: Oxbow Books and Council for British Research in the Levant, 2012).
Venetia Porter, ed., Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam (London: British Museum Press, 2012)
Venetia Porter and Liana Saif, eds, The Hajj: Collected Essays, Research Publications 193 (London: British Museum Press, 2013).