The Wisdom in Ruins: Imagining Antiquity in the Medieval Islamic World

Perşembe, Nisan 25, 2024 - 17:00
TB 310
Stephennie Mulder

You are cordially invited to attend the upcoming Aptullah Kuran Memorial Lecture titled "The Wisdom in Ruins: Imagining Antiquity in the Medieval Islamic World," presented by Stephennie Mulder. The lecture is scheduled for April 25, 2024, at 17:00, in TB 310.

The lecture will also be streamed live. You may join by clicking the following link:


While the study of antiquarianism is well-developed in European scholarship, the history of Islamic antiquarianism or interest in the material remains of the ancient past has been underexplored. The paucity of scholarship is a striking lacuna given that medieval Islamic empires ruled in areas where antiquities and ruins were evident everywhere, forming the fabric of cities, markets, mosques, and homes. In this sense, ruins were both wondrous and ordinary: woven into the patterns of everyday life, and the history of Islamic antiquarianism bears the imprint of these seemingly divergent attitudes toward the material legacy of the pre-Islamic past. Over the past 20 years, following the performative destruction of cultural heritage pursued by militant groups like the Taliban and ISIS, it has become commonplace for outside observers to parrot the propaganda of these organizations and assert that such acts are justified by Islamic doctrine. Yet this assertion ignores over 1,400 years of rich, complex interaction with ancient and pre-Islamic cultural heritage. In fact, ancient sites have typically been positively valued by Muslims, who frequently acted to ensure they were preserved. Long before the emergence of ISIS and other iconoclasts, and perhaps as early as the rise of Islam itself, Muslims imagined localities of antiquity in myriad ways: as sites of memory, spaces of healing, or places imbued with didactic, historical, and moral power. At a moment when in Syria, Gaza, and elsewhere, heritage is being destroyed on a nearly unprecedented scale, this talk explores the diverse ways medieval Muslims studied, valued, and preserved the material legacies of ancient and pre-Islamic societies.