In the past three decades scholarship, particularly studies in Islamic archaeology and Greek and Arabic papyrology, has been able to redefine the traditional view that the Arab conquest brought about economic decline. Micro-studies have shown that structural developments took different courses depending on their geographical location and that several preconditions accounted for their different intensities and scales. It is, however, clear that further micro-studies will be needed in order to get a more balanced picture of changes in this important and as-yet little studied ‘transition period’.
The DFG-project “The economy of Byzantine and Early Islamic Aswan mirrored in papyri, ostraca, inscriptions and the archeological evidence” (Stefanie Schmidt) which is carried out at the Seminar of Egyptology of the FU Berlin wants to contribute to achieving this goal by providing a coherent study of the economy of Aswan, a strategically important border town in Southern Egypt, and its integration into the domestic market. In the course of the three years project it aims at providing an in-depth assessment of economic processes that took place from the 5th to the 9th cent. CE.
Aswan provides a rare opportunity to analyse transition processes: not only was it a lively production and trade centre before the Arab conquest – a fact that renders studies on continuities possible in the first place. But the rich archaeological evidence that has been unearthed in extensive excavations during the 20th and 21st centuries allows, moreover, a thorough study of economic processes based on documentary sources.
On the basis of published Arabic, Coptic, and Greek papyri, inscriptions, and ostraca (potsherds with writing) from the 5th to 9th cent. CE, the project aims at identifying a) internal parameters which affected the economy of Aswan and b) external parameters that had an influence on the demand and production of Aswan goods.
This website wants to provide a means for all those working with textual and material sources from the First Cataract and guide them through the jungle of published and unpublished material. By establishing a database containing objects found in the region from the 19th to the 21st centuries, it will offer, moreover, an opportunity to study objects that had not yet entered the scientific discourse since they were distributed to museums all over the world.