DOI: 10.1515/opar-2022-0342 ISSN: 2300-6560

Arab Migration During Early Islam: The Seventh to Eighth Century AD from an Archaeological Perspective

Hagit Nol
  • Education
  • Archeology
  • Conservation


The topic of Arab migration during the medieval period has occupied many modern historians. The evidence for migration in chronicles and geographies, however, is quite thin. This article looks at these texts as well as at contemporary “archaeological texts” (inscriptions and papyri documents) and archaeology. Each of these sources provides different information under different limitations which sometimes correlates with another. One main focus of the article is the ability of archaeology to answer – alone – the question about Arab migration. For that purpose, two archaeological models are proposed. One model highlights the link between the material culture of two regions (origin and destination) in two sequent times and its evolvement in the destination. The other model points to continuous links between origin and destination and the evolvement of material culture in the origin. The models are compared to a number of case studies from the early Islamic period (seventh to tenth century AD) in the Levant, Spain, and additional regions. The case studies present innovations which might reflect migrants: irrigation methods, specific forms of architecture, production techniques of portable artifacts, and evidence for a new confession – Islam. While the archaeological records of early Islam are often too limited to answer most of the models’ criteria, two case studies seem promising: soapstone pots/bowls and early Muslim burials. Both cases imply the migration of people from the Arabian Peninsula elsewhere in the eighth or even the seventh century.

More from our Archive