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Fustat Finds

Fustat Finds: Beads, Coins, Medical Instruments, Textiles, and Other Artifacts from the Awad Collection

Edited by Jere L. Bacharach
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Fustat Finds
    Book Description:

    Corroded pieces of metal, stamped lumps of copper, broken bits of glass with partial inscriptions, fragments of textiles, tiny beads—these were the raw material found at al-Fustat, the site of the first Muslim settlement in Egypt in the seventh century and the heart of Cairo for many centuries following. From the 1950s Dr. Henri Amin Awad accepted from the poor in this area objects that had no obvious market value in return for medical services rendered. Over the years he built up an extraordinary and important collection of artifacts. Carefully cleaned, sorted, and then analyzed by specialists, this material illuminates many areas of the archaeological record neglected or missing from other studies. The ten studies in this volume—covering beads, bone, coins, glass weights and vessel stamps, medical instruments, medical prescriptions, metal objects, and textiles—demonstrate the wide range of archaeological material once found in al-Fustat, a site no longer accessible since most of it has been buried under urban development or lost to a rising water table. Contributors: Ibrahim Abd al-Rahman, Abd al-Rahman Abd al-Tawwab, Henri Amin Awad, Jere L. Bacharach, Michael L. Bates, Lidia Domaszewicz, Katharina Eldada, Peter Francis, Jr., Sami K. Hamarneh, Nancy Arthur Hoskins, Peter Mentzel, Norman D. Nicol, Elizabeth Rodenbeck, W. Luke Treadwell

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-233-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Ibrahim ‘Abd al-Rahman and ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Abd al-Tawwab

    The mounds of Fustat provided bountiful supplies of fertilizer in their nitrogenoussibakh, and abundant landfill for the adjacent swamps. When this natural resource was exploited from the end of the nineteenth century, a wealth of historic treasures was brought to light. As soon as the Egyptian government realized the importance of the mounds in revealing the earliest stages of the Egyptian capital, after the arrival of Islam, and its subsequent development, and what they contained in terms of archaeological treasures, coveted by different museums around the world, they placed the site under the successive control of various state agencies:...

  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Jere L. Bacharach

    As the population of Cairo races toward 20 million, more and more of its early history is being lost to an ever-expanding sea of high-rise apartments and paved roads, while a rising water table threatens those remains from below. Among the historical zones most impacted by the population explosion is an elliptical-shaped area known as Fustat, whose borders changed over the centuries.¹ This introduction offers an overview of Fustat finds and how Dr. Henri Amin Awad came to acquire the items analyzed in the accompanying articles.

    Fustat was first settled in 641 CE by the Muslim Arab military leader ‘Amr...

  5. Chapter 2 Beads
    (pp. 11-40)
    Peter Francis Jr.

    Egypt has been an important beadmaking and bead-loving society since well before the Old Kingdom (commencingcirca2613 BCE). At the beginning of the Hellenistic period (fourth century BCE) the newly built Alexandria developed a sophisticated glass bead industry using unique techniques to produce beads that were used locally and traded widely throughout the known world. After the Arab invasion Alexandria was largely abandoned and a new capital at Fustat was established. Fustat inherited the Alexandrine glass bead industry and was a critical node of world trade.¹

    The Awad Collection of beads considerably expands our understanding of Fustat’s commercial relations...

  6. Chapter 3 Bone, Ivory, and Wood
    (pp. 41-60)
    Jere L. Bacharach and Elizabeth Rodenbeck

    The directors of the ARCE Mission, Drs. Wladyslaw B. Kubiak and George T. Scanlon, wrote on their excavations at Fustat: “Every season has produced carved bone objects and utensils in so great a number as to permit thinking such work an indigenous art.”¹ In their final report on Fustat-C they were only able to illustrate two bone spindle whorls and an ivory ternary piece while recognizing that numerous “Coptic dolls,” spindle whorls, kohl sticks, gaming pieces, beads and pendants, inlay plaques, etc. were found.² These items of bone and ivory, whose artistic quality is limited and designs conservative, have been...

  7. Chapter 4 Coins
    (pp. 61-104)
    Jere L. Bacharach

    The coinage from Fustat reflects the incredible long life of pre-modern coins and the variety that must have been available in the market at any one time. Modern scholars may be able to distinguish Ptolemaic, Roman, and Byzantine coins from Islamic ones, but to most pre-twentieth century users of money, they were all old. Inscriptions on post-700 Islamic coins are difficult to read, even for well-struck gold and silver coins. This collection, however, reflects the poorest end of the spectrum, the coinage most of the populace would have used for their daily exchanges. The condition in which every one of...

  8. Chapter 5 Copper Coinage of Egypt in the Seventh Century
    (pp. 105-126)
    Lidia Domaszewicz and Michael L. Bates

    In the course of the seventh century, Egypt’s history was sufficiently eventful: it changed hands by force seven times.¹ In 608 the country was taken by Nicetas, an officer of Heraclius, exarch of Africa, who was in rebellion against the emperor Phocas. Heraclius, son of the exarch, left Alexandria in 610 for Constantinople, where he was acclaimed emperor. In 618–19 Egypt was conquered and occupied by a Persian army, but in 629² it returned to Byzantine control after they defeated the Persians in Iraq. In 639 it was invaded by the Muslim Arabs led by ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who...

  9. Chapter 6 Glass Weights and Vessel Stamps
    (pp. 127-180)
    Katharina Eldada

    Many years ago the American Numismatic Society (ANS) received a gift of Egyptian glass weights and vessel stamps from Dr. Henri Amin Awad consisting of 92 objects. Most of the pieces were broken. I had the good fortune to put some broken pieces together, and, to the best of my ability, identify them.¹ Twenty-five of the pieces were of types new to the collection of the ANS. Those pieces marked with an asterisk are illustrated. Seventeen of the stamps were unpublished. The present text is a complete catalog of the available Fustat finds, linking the pieces to other stamps at...

  10. Chapter 7 Glass Vessel Stamp Data for Materia Medica
    (pp. 181-188)
    Sami K. Hamarneh and Henri Amin Awad

    In addition to the glass weights and seals or stamps identified by Katharina Eldada in the preceding article, the Awad Collection contained additional Umayyad and early ‘Abbasid glass seals, which have been distributed within Egypt, with specific reference to everyday materials, with important medical properties. In his study of Islamic glass stamps, A. H. Morton produced a list of all the commodities he found.² This list is reproduced to give the reader a sense of the range of products available and for which glass stamps were available:

    Oils, fats, and dairy products:olive oil (zayt); fat (duhn); clarified butter (samn);...

  11. Chapter 8 Medical Instruments
    (pp. 189-204)
    Sami K. Hamarneh and Henri Amin Awad

    A large number of metal surgical instruments had been unearthed at Fustat by the 1950s.² Although their precise date has never been determined, the site itself is generally believed to belong to either the late Umayyad or early ‘Abbasid period (late eighth or early ninth century). This implies that surgical implements were known and used in Egypt long before the tools described and depicted in the medical encyclopediaal-Tasrif(completed about 1000 CE in the Andalusian capital of Muslim Spain).³ This work by the renowned Arab physician-surgeon, Abu’l Qasim (Latin, Abulcasis) Khalaf ibn Abbas al-Zahrawi (ca. 940–1013) is composed...

  12. Chapter 9 Medical Prescriptions
    (pp. 205-212)
    Henri Amin Awad

    The British scholar D. S. Richards contributed a section on written documents to the Kubiak/Scanlon volume on Fustat-C in which he stated that during the 1980 season 441 separate pieces had been found dating from the mid-tenth to mid eleventh centuries. Of these separate pieces, 177 were photographed and 124 assigned numbers, with all of them eventually going to the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo. Richards edited and translated three of these documents for the Kubiak/Scanlon publication along with a summary of all of them. Six other written documents were illustrated in the volume.²

    The Awad Fustat material also included...

  13. Chapter 10 Metal Objects
    (pp. 213-224)
    Jere L. Bacharach and Elizabeth Rodenbeck

    Museums and private collections throughout the world have numerous examples reflecting the mastery of metalwork by Muslim craftsmen. Magnificent inlaid ewers, elaborate basins, massive mosque lamps, and weapons of war are only a few of the types of objects described in numerous catalogs. What is missing is what was used by the masses, the everyday objects which were part of daily life. The bronze pieces in the Awad Collection are artistically uninteresting but reflect what would have been available for mass consumption. Scholarship on this type of work is limited though important comparative work has been done by James W....

  14. Chapter 11 Textiles
    (pp. 225-268)

    The textile traditions and technology of the ancient, classical, and early medieval world flourished in the first millennium. Fabrics were a symbol of status and security for the wealthy—a necessity for everyone else. The process of cloth making employed a large number of people and the exportation and importation of fibers, dyes, cloth, and costume fueled the economy through trade routes that traversed Europe, Asia, and Africa. The vast number of ordinary and extraordinary fabrics found in the burial grounds of Coptic Egypt (late third to seventh centuries CE) testifies to this and tease the imagination. One can only...

    (pp. 269-270)