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Article

Judith McKenzie, Gordon Campbell, R. R. R. Smith, Wiktor A. Daszewski, A. H. Enklaar, Dominic Montserrat, C. Walters, Wladyslaw B. Kubiak, Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

Egyptian city situated on the Mediterranean coast west of the delta of the River Nile, capital of Egypt from c. 320 bc to ad 642, seaport and centre of ancient Greek culture.

Judith McKenzie

Alexandria was founded in 331 bc by Alexander, on the site of the small Egyptian settlement of Rhakotis. Its location, with access by canal to the River Nile, enabled it to become an important and highly prosperous trading centre, and by c. 320 bc Alexandria was the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt. During Ptolemaic times (304–30 bc) it became a major centre of learning, with famous scholars of literature, mathematics, astronomy, medicine and geography, and it played a major role in the transmission of Greek culture to the East.

With the defeat of the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII (51–30 bc), by Octavian (later called Augustus) at the Battle of Actium in 30...

Article

Aswan  

Edda Bresciani

[anc. Egyp. Abu, Swenet; Copt. Sawan; Gr. Syene]

Egyptian city at the northern end of the first Nile cataract, c. 900 km south of Cairo. The modern town chiefly stretches along the eastern bank of a sandstone valley, which also contains numerous islands formed by the granite outcrops of the cataract; its ancient monuments are found on both the east and west banks and on some of the islands.

In ancient times Aswan was a garrison town marking the traditional boundary between Egypt and Nubia; as such it served as the capital of the first nome (province) of Egypt and the seat of its governors. The town’s wealth was generated by its position on an important trade route between the Nile Valley and the African lands to the south and by its granite quarries, which provided the material for countless ancient monuments. The islands of the cataract enjoyed religious status as the mythological source of the annual Nile inundation, while the Temple of Isis at ...

Article

Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....

Article

Nubia  

William Y. Adams, R. G. Morkot, Timothy Kendall, L. Török and Khalid J. Deemer

Region in the Nile Valley, immediately to the south of Egypt, in which several cultures flourished, from the Khartoum Mesolithic period (c. 10,000–c. 5000 bc) to the establishment of the Islamic Funj sultanate c. ad 1505. Ancient Nubia corresponds essentially to the ‘Aethiopia’ of Herodotus and other Classical writers and the ‘Kush’ of the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews. It extends approximately from Aswan in southern Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan (see fig. 1 and fig. 2). The most northerly part, Lower Nubia, has always been regarded as an Egyptian sphere of influence, and it is included within the borders of the modern Arab Republic of Egypt. Egyptian control of the larger, southerly region, ‘Upper Nubia’, was much more sporadic.

Article

Lucien Golvin

[Kal‛at Banī Ḥammā; Kalaa des Bani Hammed La Kalaa]

Site in central Algeria, 25 km north-east of M’Sila. It was the capital of the Hammadid branch of the Zirid dynasty. In 1007 Hammad ibn Buluggin founded a qal‛a (Arab.: ‘fortress‘) in the Maadid Mountains; its strong ramparts (950×500 m) protected it several times against the attacks of the Zirids of Ifriqiyya (Tunisia). The site was rapidly populated by the forced transfer of neighbouring inhabitants, who built the Manar Palace, several mosques, caravanserais and other public buildings. The Qal‛a reached its apogee during the reigns of al-Nasir (reg 1062–88) and al-Mansur (reg 1088–1105), thanks to the influx of refugees from Kairouan fleeing the invasions of Hilalian nomads. The city had four palaces, of which the largest (Qasr al-Bahr) had a vast central pool. One of the few extant remains is the elaborately decorated minaret (h. 20 m) of the congregational mosque. The wealth of the city is attested by the range of glazed ceramics found there. Menaced in its turn by the advancing nomads, the town was abandoned by al-Mansur, who took refuge in Bejaïa (Bougie, now Annaba, N. Algeria). After the Hammadids were overthrown by the Almohads (...

Article

Quseir  

[Quṣayr al-Qadīm; al-Quṣayr al-Qadīm; Quseir al-Qadim; el-Kusair el-Kadim; Qusayr; Kuseir]

Port on the Egyptian coast of the Red Sea east of Luxor. Located at the mouth of the Wadi Hammamat, the shortest overland route between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea, the port was known in the 1st and 2nd centuries ad as Leukos Limen and in the 13th and 14th centuries as Qusayr. Despite its proximity to the Nile, the port was never as important as Berenice or ‛Aydhab, probably because it was difficult for ships to sail there against the prevailing north wind. Excavations begun in 1978 have revealed the remains of a Roman port, an industrial area, a Roman villa, houses from the Islamic period, glass, ceramics and a wealth of organic remains due to the dryness of the climate.

Enc. Islam/2: ‘Ḳuṣayr’ D. S. Whitcomb and J. H. Johnson: Quseir al-Qadim 1980, Preliminary Report (Malibu, CA, 1982) G. Vogelsang-Eastwood: Resist Dyed Textiles from Quseir al-Qadim, Egypt...

Article

Sedrata  

Margaret Graves

Site of a settlement in the Sahara in the early Islamic period, near the modern-day Algerian city of Ouargla. Sedrata was briefly the capital of the Khariji sect in North Africa until it was destroyed in the 11th century.

In the 7th century, the Kharijites, a highly conservative opposition party that rejected both the succession of ‛Ali b. Abu Talib as well as that of his rivals, fled from persecution to the Maghrib. The Rustamid dynasty of Kharijites established their capital at Tahart (now in western Algeria), but fled from there to Sedrata in 909 when the Fatimids invaded. The Kharijites remained at Sedrata until it was destroyed in 1077; leaving Sedrata they took refuge in the oasis towns of the Mzab Valley in Central Algeria, where the Kharijite tradition has survived to the present day. The austere architectural tradition of these towns is rather hard to reconcile with the sophisticated and intricate stucco decoration found at Sedrata....

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

Sheila R. Canby

( Kyrle )

(b London, Oct 13, 1897; d Sharon, CT, April 18, 1986).

American archaeologist, curator and collector . Trained as an artist at the Slade School, University College, London, in 1920 he joined the graphic section of the Egyptian Expedition to Thebes, organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. During the 1920s and 1930s Wilkinson painted facsimiles of Egyptian tomb paintings in the museum collection, and he joined museum excavations in the Kharga Oasis (Egypt) and Qasr-i Abu Nasr and Nishapur (Iran). Transferred to the curatorial staff of the museum in 1947, he became curator in 1956 of the new Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art, which merged with the Department of Islamic Art in 1957. Through his energetic collaboration on major excavations at Hasanlu, Nimrud and Nippur, Wilkinson greatly expanded the Ancient Near Eastern collections at the Metropolitan Museum. After his retirement from the museum in 1963, he taught Islamic art at Columbia University and was Hagop Kevorkian Curator of Middle Eastern Art and Archaeology at the Brooklyn Museum, New York (...