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VIRTUAL - Before the Railway: Trade and the Syrian Hajj
November 11, 2020 @ 7:30 pm EST
This is an online event.
Sponsored by: Oberlin-Wooster Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Wooster Archaeology Student Colloquium, and the Department of Classical Studies
AIA Society: Oberlin/Wooster
Lecturer: Marcus Milwright, Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology in the Department of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Victoria
Abstract: 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.
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