Islamization in al-Andalus through Archaeology. The case of the "vega" of Granada

Por José Cristobal CARVAJAL LÓPEZ. Doctor en Historia Medieval, Grupo de Investigación "Toponimia, Historia y Arqueología del Reino de Granada"

Al-Andalus is the name given to the territories in the Iberian peninsula (and in some cases, over the Pirynees) which were conquered in the Muslim advance of the beginnings of the 8th century. As a long-lived territorial entity, it suffered different changes in its extension throughout its history, mainly reductions in the face of the growing Christian kingdoms of the North. This progressive reduction led to its total disappearance at the end of the Middle Ages, when the Nasrid kingdom of Granada was conquered. It is precisely at the centre of this region where we will set this study, although we will not focus on the last stages of al-Andalus, but in those of its starting point to try to understand the transformation of a people heir of the Roman tradition (through the Visigothic kingdom) into the Andalusians of whom the written sources inform since the 9th-10th centuries. This process is known as “islamization”.

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Al-Andalus is the name given to the territories in the Iberian peninsula (and in some cases, over the Pirynees) which were conquered in the Muslim advance of the beginnings of the 8th century. As a long-lived territorial entity, it suffered different changes in its extension throughout its history, mainly reductions in the face of the growing Christian kingdoms of the North. This progressive reduction led to its total disappearance at the end of the Middle Ages, when the Nasrid kingdom of Granada was conquered. It is precisely at the centre of this region where we will set this study, although we will not focus on the last stages of al-Andalus, but in those of its starting point to try to understand the transformation of a people heir of the Roman tradition (through the Visigothic kingdom) into the Andalusians of whom the written sources inform since the 9th-10th centuries. This process is known as “islamization”.
In spite of its name, islamization has less to do with the religious factors than with those of social integration. Of course that conversion to Islam is essential when it comes to understand processes of social assimilation, especially when the conversion itself implies a change in social status. However, if we consider islamization over the juridical aspects and we understand it as the adoption of social and economic patterns brought by the conquerers, we will set its meaning in a more precise context and we will be in better position to understand the history of those who never converted to Islam but were living among Muslims: the Mozárabes (2).
Depending on how we put the meaning of islamization, its development will be set in different ways. From the point of view of the traditional (right-wing) Spanish historiography, it was a sistematic agression against the pre-existing culture, which was, by the way, Christian and Hispanic par excellence, and it was never completely successful. Religion and language, key (and almost unique) elements of this vision, were adopted only superficially and never reached the soul of the people, which allowed their return to the “right way” after the Reconquista (SÁNCHEZ ALBORNOZ, 1974)
The development of the debate on Islam in the historical materialism and social Antropology during the 70s allowed the entrance of new points of view in the Andalusian historiography. The most influential of these new approaches was that of Pierre Guichard (1976), who set islamization for first time in terms of confront of different societies, in which one was absorbed by another, better organized and prepared to afford the lack of a centralized and unified power (meaning state), the latter much more innovative and capable of transformation of the social and natural environment. Following Guichard’s terminology, this was a face-to-face between the “weak” society of Visigothic Spain and the “strong” society, essentially tribal and segmentary, of the Arab-Berber groups that took part in the conquest of the peninsula. To accept this theory it must be admitted that the groups of invaders were much more influential quantitative and qualitatively (meaning that among its components were also women, children and even elders) than that which traditional historiography was ready to do, because only in this way reproduction of social patterns was possible.

Later works have tinged the original ideas, among those some of Guichard himself (2000-2001) and also of other scholars (BARCELÓ, 1993; ACIÉN, 1997; MALPICA, 2006). It is also important to make notice of the criticism received by this theory, the earlier mainly focused on the interpretation of Arabic sources (coming more from arabists than from historians) (for example, VALLVÉ, 1978). Recently, a more solid alternative has come to light by the hand of historians, who have collected ideas from the earlier historiographical tradition and from the classic European orientalism (MANZANO, 2006). Basic points of controversy between these two positions are the following:

• The first point is the character of Arab-Berber society itself. Whereas Guichard (1976) has defended anthropological points of view of a tribal and segmentary society, based in studies like those of Evans-Pritchard and Hart (nowadays in deep revision, in which Hart and Guichard (2000-2001) themselves have taken part), the opposed theory considers that the tribal spirit of the Arab society was deeply corrupted since the beginnings of the Islamic state, resulting in more superficial than real segmentary dinamics. Crone (1980) has shown the invention of genealogies in certain Eastern Arabic tribes, although this does not prevent this segmentary dinamics of having a very important justifying, and thus social, meaning. We must add that Guichard has always consider the Arabic society much more “advanced”, or “corrupted” that its Berber equivalent, and thus he made a lot of emphasis in the North-African element of the invasion and always with an admirable prudence in his asserts.

• In second place, the role of the Islamic state. Guichard’s ideas allow to consider that a good part of the islamization was performed from the bottom to the top, that is, without an active involvement of the state, since the Damascene caliphate and its successor, the Cordobese, would not be in the first centuries more that shadows of its true meaning. This proposition is not shared by the holders of the opposite thesis (mainly MANZANO, 2006), to whom the different agents of the state kept always a strict social control and were then the real protagonists of the change.

• There is a great importance of the consideration of the previous existent society, the “weak” one which was to be absorbed by the newcomer, “strong” one. It has been considered as heir of the Visigoths and proto-feudal, factors that have also been used to characterise the opposition to the Ummayyad state in several points of al-Andalus during the 8th to 10th centuries, frequently directed by Muwallad/s. It is polemical, thus, the apparently easy assimilation of these elements in the Andalusian society, since they were able to offer such a capable resistance to the process after more than a century and a half of submission.

Research on the Vega of Granada

The study that provided the results that we present has been made with materials found in the Vega of Granada, a region of South-Eastern Spain where a lot of key elements to understand the period between the 8th and the 11th centuries can be located.
The Vega of Granada is a high plain (around 600 metres above sea level), which belongs to a line of similar plains located in between two mountain ranges, the Subbetic and the Penibetic Mountains. The Vega is surrounded by minor ranges, except in its South-East corner, and it is crossed by the river Genil. The springs of the latter are in Sierra Nevada mountains, Eastern limit to the region, and it leaves it from the Infiernos de Loja, Western end. The plain was created as a consequence of the alpine movements of the Tertiary Period and the subsidence of the Cuaternary, which directly caused the elevation of the diaper of Láchar. This accident has the peculiar effect of dividing the Vega in two sub-regions, causing a bottleneck in the middle of the Genil course and an accumulation of water in the Eastern part. As a result, this latter (which is where Granada and Ilbira are located) is a very wide spot of fertile land, whereas from Láchar onwards the richer lands are located much nearer the river and never reach the mountainous limits. Transformation of the environment by human hand is, thus, fundamental, because the use of irrigation system has allowed not only to overcome the natural aridity of a Mediterranean region far away from the sea (around 40 kilometres from its Southern limit), but also to adjust the lack of balance between these to regions, channeling the water in the Eastern part and bringing it from secondary courses to complement the resources of the Western lands (OCAÑA, 1974).
We can assume, following the data that we know, that this human transformation of the environment has its origin in the Medieval period, under agriculture parameters of the Andalusian world, but the evolution of this flourishing economy, based mainly on the irrigation, is still beyond our knowledge. Written sources inform us that already in the 10th century there are several centres of population (can we call them towns?), which have irrigated lands around (LÉVI-PROVENÇAL, 1953; CATALÁN and DE ANDRÉS, 1984). Later Arabic writers confirm this idea for their periods and even allow us to peer the evolution of this economy in scale and social organisation, through toponyms, administrative divisions and several other kinds of data (IBN AL-JATIB, 1974; SÁNCHEZ MARTÍNEZ, 1974; JIMÉNEZ MATA, 1990).
Another crucial factor of the Vega of Granada is its historical relevance, which allows us to find several mentions to it or some of their places in sources. Of these mentioned elements, we shall pay special attention to Madinat Ilbira (or also Qastiliya), first capital town of the kœra or province of Ilbira and thus key to control the lands that today cover mostly the Spanish provinces of Granada and Almería. Ilbira, placed at the feet of the Elvira range in Atarfe (Granada), will be focused by many Muslim historians, specially during the period of the fitna (chaos, in Arabic) or revolt against the Cordobese emirate (9th-10th centuries), because of its involvement in one of the main lines of opposition against the state. This latter is special because it was one of the few that were directed by Arabs, not by other ethnic groups.
In spite of all these circumstances, historical-archaeological research in the Vega of Granada, as in the rest of Spain, has just started. Granada is a land where interest in Archaeology has a relatively long tradition, due to the existence of the University and to the debate about the creation of the city (which we explain later). But these same factors are in part responsible to the lack of attention of the archaeologists in questions related to al-Andalus. This is, it is not up to the 80s that the interest of Archaeology is considered to go beyond the Roman world, being al-Andalus a territory for arabists only. It is even worse, since al-Andalus was in some ways considered out of the field of Medieval studies; it had no historical relevance, because the Andalusians were not Spanish nor Portuguese. They had been simply the “enemy” of the Middle Ages, and they had no history on their own, so there was no interest in studying them. The arabists were not prepared to offer a rigorous historical approach, and this lack led the archaeological data in the hands of unprepared art historians and orientalists, which considered only the artistic and monumental aspects. Scientific Archaeology was only field for Prehistory and Classics.
In Spain the field of Medieval Archaeology begins to open in the 70s, mainly due to the efforts of historians like the mentioned Guichard (1976, 2000-2001) and Pastor, with her analysis of the Spanish Reconquista through the Historical Materialism (PASTOR, 1975). In pure Archaeology, the foundation-stones of these new approaches are the works on pottery of Rosselló (1978), Bazzana (1979; 1980) and Zozaya (1982), who for the first time offer a consideration of the archaeological data as informer of historical developments, beyond its artistic value. In Granada, even when Medieval excavations were undertaken by historians like Torres (MOTOS, 1991), it would not be until the creation of the research group “Toponimia, Historia y Arqueología del Reino de Granada”, around the main figure of Antonio Malpica, when Medieval Archaeology is given a coherent approach. Since its beginning, the work of this team was directed to the study of the social distribution of space, especially during the Nasrid period (13th-15th centuries) and its transformation in the face of the Castilian conquest in 1492.
In recent years, deeply interested in the European debate, Malpica’s team has extended its research to the Early Medieval period, in which several specialists are currently working (among them, the signer of this manuscript). The main task of the team in this moment is the research on the Islamic city of Madinat Ilbira. Up to now, three excavations and two surveys have been carried on in the territory of the town, and a new dig is planned after the summer of 2007.
All the points of view and opinion shown in this paper have been learned, discussed and developed during the study of ceramic materials coming from this important site. The results that we present are based only on the work made on the pottery of the campaigns of 2001, 2003 and 2006, although the knowledge of those coming from the excavations of 2005 has been important as reference. The paper, however, aspires to explain a social evolution inside the general stage of the Vega of Granada, which made necessary to count on other sites. After a revision of suitable bibliography and a search inside the stores of the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Granada, the materials found in several sites of the Vega were chosen. Two of them are located inside the Albaycín, the oldest quarter of Granada: the Callejón del Gallo and the Calle Cruz de Quirós. The rest of them were digged in rural environments, out of towns: Cerro de la Mora (in the territory of the village of Moraleda de Zafayona), Cerro del Molino del Tercio (Salar) and Cerro de la Solana de la Verdeja (Villanueva de Mesía). A wider background of the Ancient and Medieval Vega was built through a selective survey carried on an important number of sites known in the stage, but, as we were not allowed to collect materials from them, only observations to these have been possible (3).

Early Medieval archaeological record of the Vega de Granada

We will expose now the archaeological record known in the Vega through the experience of the last years, dealing only with those rests that have been dated between 8th and 11th centuries. The focus of this exercise will be the main characteristics of the settlements, and most specially their pottery, which offers a great amount of information.
In general, settlements in this first stage of Islamic dominion are located on elevations, but never completely dissociated from the lower lands. Their extension is wide, with very shallow vertical reach underground, but much spread horizontally; the reason of this is that different cultural phases were not placed one on top of another, being in many cases partly of the same moment. A paradigm for this assert is Madinat Ilbira (MALPICA et allii, 2005). This seem to be caused by cohabitation among the old settlers and the newcomers after the Islamic conquest, the latter founding their settlements very near or even adjacent. The cases in which a superposition of different structures is clear seem to show that there was a hiatus of at least a century in between each one of the phases.
Structures of habitation are always very simple, their walls constructed in pisée over a base of plane stones with a width of 50 cm. Floors were usually made of earth and lime, with exceptions made of wide plane stones or fragments of tiles. Bricks are very scarcely used, and curve tiles were put as covers of the roofs (MALPICA et allii, 2001; ÁLVAREZ, 2005; MALPICA et allii, 2005; MARTÍN, 2006). These techniques will change towards the end of the 11th century, when we start to observe in Granada a new and stronger pisée, which can be used as foundation, and the use of bricks becomes more frequent (CARVAJAL and PALANCO, 2006; MALPICA et allii, 2007).
Spaces inside buildings are frequently simple, exclusively designed for rest, whereas life is organized outside or in associated courtyards. There is no division of inner spaces in the earlier settlements, but more complex planes can be observed since 10th century onwards. This may be partly due to the fact that all the examples known from this time come from the capital town of Ilbira or Granada. However, there is one case, the Cerro de la Solana de la Verdeja, which clearly does not go beyond the beginnings of the 9th century and in which the complexity of houses is a fact, even when it is doubtful if it should be considered a town (ÁLVAREZ, 2005). The reason for this exception may be simply that the time of its occupation is relatively longer than the rest of the known examples of its same moment, which are the Cerro del Molino del Tercio (JIMÉNEZ PUERTAS, in press) and the Cerro del Sombrerete (MALPICA et allii, 2001), part of Madinat Ilbira dating from the 9th century.
The case of Madinat Ilbira is absolutely essential to understand the archaeological record of this time, since its character is strongly rural in spite of being capital of a wide district, up to the great expansion of the Cordobese state between the 9th and 10th centuries. We do not know very precisely the limits of the city, but archaeological surveys carried on in the years 2003 and 2004 (MALPICA et allii, 2004) have allowed proposing an area of occupation of more than 300 Ha, and it is probably wider. The reason of this enormous extension is one of the circumstances above described: the dispersion of the several nuclei of settlement that configure the whole city. When they arrive in the 8th century, the groups of the Arab and Berbers invaders settle separately next to the capital of the region that they had just conquered: the Visigothic Eliberri. The 2003 survey confirmed a concentration of late Roman pottery in the East part of the city (on top of two cerros or hills), whereas the clearly Islamic material was more widely dispersed, and the latest productions (10th-11th centuries) were located on the plain. The 2001 and 2005 excavations (MALPICA et allii, 2001; MALPICA et allii, 2005) have been located on top and at the bottom of the Cerro del Sombrerete, hill in the West end of the city on which is located an important and walled alcazaba (4) or fortress (there is no wall found for the rest of the city). These excavations revealed an occupation of this alcazaba very limited in time, perhaps not even a century, and that has been dated between the second half of the 9th century and the first quarter of the 10th by the combined use of written sources and archaeological analysis. This data is extremely important, since it has offered a keystone to compare the rest of the materials and so configure a hypothesis of evolution in a given chronology. The excavation of 2006 (MARTÍN, 2006) was made on the plain and shows a pottery clearly different from that of the Sombrerete, with characteristics that allow its data in a second period for the city, between the 10th and the 11th centuries.
Knowledge of the pottery of Ilbira allows us to launch a group of considerations over the ceramics of the rest of sites following the lines that we will establish soon. For the moment, we will offer an approximate chronology of each site and of its pottery. The Cerro de la Solana de la Verdeja opens its sequence between the 6th (maybe 5th) and the 7th centuries and it reaches the end of the 8th century or the beginnings of the 9th.
The Islamic sequence of the Cerro del Molino del Tercio (there is also an Ancient one, with a hiatus in between these both) seems to be 9th century, not reaching the 10th. The Cerro de la Mora sequence is very bad known, since its diggers focused on Prehistoric and Ancient parts, getting rid of a lot of Medieval pieces; however, vessels that we can assure that come from this site allow to build an long chronology, perhaps from 7th century up to 9th or even 10th. The chronology of the sites inserted inside the city of Granada is quite more polemical. The Albaycín is considered by everyone as the oldest part of the city, where the oldest rests lie. Since the 15th century conquest of the city there is in the common feeling a strong and more visceral than scientific fight to exalt “that of Christian” or “that of Moorish” which is supposed to be the soul of the city; a polemic that often reaches the absurd. Between the 16th and the 19th centuries, the intellectuals from Granada trying to link the brilliant Roman past with their present allied themselves with the ultrarreligious sectors of opinion to create a general hypothesis without archaeological grounds; this latter defends the continuous occupation of the city since Antiquity to our times. This idea, still hold by some scholars (ORFILA, 1995), goes against the evidence that there is, if not a hiatus between the Roman Granada (which is not necessarily a municipium) and the Islamic one, at least a general abandon of the city and its dissolution as nucleus between the 3rd and the 11th centuries. In the latter date, the rural elements around the Albaycin crystallize to form the origins of Granada as we know it today. Such a development is most admissible to the light of the evolution observed in the pottery collected in the Callejón del Gallo (ADROHER et allii, 2001) and the Calle Cruz the Quirós (DE LA TORRE, 2006), and also in other published excavations situated in the Albaycín and its outskirts: Plaza del Aljibe de Trillo (GÓMEZ BECERRA, 2002), the Cathedral (GÓMEZ BECERRA, 1999) and the Casa de los Tiros (RODRÍGUEZ AGUILERA, 1999). It is a point clearly seen in the recently finished dig carried out in the Madraza, next to the Cathedral (MALPICA et allii, 2007) (5).

Some considerations on the pottery

Scientific study of the medieval pottery in Spain can be considered started in the end of the 70s in the works of Rosselló (1978), Bazzana (1979; 1980) and Zozaya (1982). They all, but specially the first one, put the bases for later research in which the Andalusian and Christian pottery from the 12th to the 15th and later centuries became very well known (examples are the works of Navarro Palazón (1986) and García Porras, (2000)). Key to this advance was the consideration of common pottery as object of study with an extraordinary amount of morphological, functional and, only collaterally, technological data which can be used for better knowledge of the society. This model was adopted from that of the study of Roman pottery in the Mediterranean, which was giving spectacular results at that time. However, this approach had a considerable handicap which was to affect the investigation on Early Medieval pottery: it considered the Andalusian pottery as a homogeneous block, idea that did not take in account the evolution and regional differences. This made impossible to distinguish between the work of an artisan of the 8th century and another one of the 14th, and generalizations in too wide scales were made. These problems were noticed by some scholars (KIRCHNER, 1988), but were someway obviated by the most of them, and an interval of time was more conveniently then scientifically accepted for the Early Medieval pottery: between the 8th and the 12th centuries. This pottery, and especially that earlier than 10th century, shows clearly a huge variety in forms, circumstance that was explained by the scarce serious researchers of this time in the 80s and 90s with a Guichardian argument. Under the latter, different forms were simplistically related to different ethnical groups. We must not forget that in these centuries the Peninsula was inhabited by clearly separated groups among which the ethnic element was probably the most important criterion for difference (ACIÉN et allii, 1985; GUTIÉRREZ, 1996) (6).
However, these problems have easier explanations from an ethnological and technological point of view. This approach was developed by North-American and European scholars between the 80s and 90s (HOWARD and MORRIS, 1981; VAN DER LEEUW and PRITCHARD, 1984), but it is mainly D. S. Peacock (1982) the one that showed us the importance of the different modes of production (not in a Marxian sense). In Spain, these approaches have been developed by researchers of Late Roman pottery (CAU, 1999; in press) and, from a much more ethnological point of view, by one of Nasrid pottery (FERNÁNDEZ NAVARRO, 2003). Following all these paths, we have considered technological and production factors as essential to the understanding of pottery and, although we have not forgot in any way the morphological and functional approach, we are closer to overcome the handicaps that they created. Considering all this allows us to give the pottery a sense of continuous change, according to the development of the Andalusian society of the first centuries. We even have been able to relate known social changes to the appearance of certain productions, which gives the chronology a special value. We can refer to four basic points in the evolution of Andalusian pottery of these centuries:

1. Since the moment of the Islamic conquest we can observe the appearance (and in some cases, the continuity) of function-specific vessels, made under technical and morphological parameters suitable to that function. Specialisation increases with time, thus causing the appearance of new series of forms that were not made before and even, inside the series themselves, new types and features that include advances in technology. Some of these are conspicuously spread, whereas others are more sporadic and must be related with some kind of inmigration or importation into a given zone.

2. Wheelmade pottery is dominant all over the period, but it interesting to see how enduring the handmade pots were inside certain series and functions, until in time their making is adapted to the wheel. Thus, from Peacock’s perspective, we have an evolution from one mode of production to another. In fact, we may speak of at least three of Peacock’s modes, because the adaptation of rural to urban production is another feature of this period.

3. One more novelty is glazed pottery, which enters shyly in 9th century and becomes widely spread in 10th.

4. Finally, and although it is not as spectacular as the advance of the glaze, we can observe the spread of the sagging bases in all types of vessels. This feature was applied only to pieces with aesthetic value at the beginning of the Islamic period, pieces that were clearly of foreign origin or only recently started to be made in the peninsula. Sagging bases, however, mean a group of characteristics very useful for cooking and for water-storage vessels, and for its technique of fabrication must be designed since the beginning of the making of a piece. All this implies that its knowledge and expansion are a point of extreme importance for our objectives (FERNÁNDEZ, 2003).

All these points allow us to assert that there is a tendency to artisan specialisation in potter’s production, maybe not lineal, but it does trace a general sense which will reach its peak at the end of our period (and will keep on developing later). If we are ready to accept with Rice (1984) that this tendency is joined to the increase of social complexity and differentiation, we must also accept that there was a vegetative increase of population in the time and the territory under analysis, something that suits the general development propose by other scholars (CHALMETA, 1994). However, we still have not explained the concrete motive of all this evolution, which carries us again to the social organisation of space and its changes all over this period. Pottery can help us with this quest, allowing us to propose some chronological features to start building a reasonable perspective.

Early Medieval settlement in the Vega de Granada through pottery

Pottery is essential to understand the development of the Vega of Granada in these centuries, but we will need to combine its information with that provided by written sources, archaeological features of known sites, toponymy and, most important, relative dates given by the evolution of irrigation systems associated with settlements. We have not the space to extend too much on this subject, but in few words we assume that irrigation crops, with all the social circumstances that it implies and adapted to such a wide spectre of environmental conditions, could only be introduced in the peninsula in the time of the Islamic invasion. Irrigation systems are by nature extraordinary enduring as long as they keep on working, and reforms made in them have such an impact in the whole system that must be visible in landscape and thus archaeologically understandable. Then it is possible to date these reforms by their study, labour that has been started with important results in some points of the Vega de Granada (MALPICA, 1997; JIMÉNEZ PUERTAS, 2007). We might be soon in position to trace the history of the accumulative irrigation systems in the Vega de Granada from its beginnings.
For the moment being, we return to the settlement phases that we can propose with the pottery and the rest of data:

1. From 8th century to beginnings of half of 9th century. A first islamization of territory is carried out by the settlement of some Muslim groups in the Vega. Evidence shows that mixed though clearly separated settlements were configured, but that there should be also new foundations. The latter carry toponyms like Alhendín or Cacín, making reference to tribal groups (respectively, the Banu Hamdam and the Banu Gassan). Written sources, however, tell about aynad (sg. yund (7)) who installed in lands given by Visigothic patricians (RIBERA, 1868). These new settlers would have produce a radical change in the economic systems of their new founded or occupied lands when they introduced irrigation in fields, as it is the case of the Banu Jãlid of Loja (RIBERA, 1868). It is also evident that older settlements suffer this transformation, and they are today inserted in the irrigation systems around them; there is a kind of these settlements which results highly significant, because its toponym reveals a plurality (usually two) of settlements, produced probably when a new place was occupied to separate different communities inside the same settlement; we are guessing when we say that the sites that better adapted to the new economy are the villages today. Examples of this last kind are settlements like Gabias or Ogíjares. Among the pottery made in this phase there must be a part of continuity, because Muslims had nor will nor power to induce by force their habits in the old population; but at the same time it is indispensable the development of a new pottery record associated to the uses of Islamic habits, and possibly with different technological and morphological features, because this would be performed by new arrived potters (maybe in Peacock’s domestic mode of production). As we know that there are no more important migrations of peoples inside al-Andalus after the 9th century and at least up to the 10th-11th centuries, it is not conceivable to think that the key elements to found an Andalusian pottery were not introduced abruptly in the 711, but that they took more or less a century to be widely spread (a similar argument can be applied to irrigation). Moreover, all these elements were introduced by a very heterogeneous group, since the mass of the invaders was composed by very diverse waves of Arabs and Berbers, each one coming from far away distant places. And besides, this first Islamic pottery could have been made in an emergency situation, until their politic and economic systems were stabilised (maybe in some fifty years, following BARCELÓ, 1997; KIRCHNER, in press). In consequence, this duplicity of the Archaeological record will make identification of this first phase of pottery extremely difficult, mainly defined by the lack of emblematic productions, like ARS or glazed pieces. A group of pottery of this phase will have a mixture of Late Roman and not very much developed Islamic features (8).

2. Beginnings or half of 9th century to first quarter of 10th century. This period includes the complex development of the first fitna, a moment of general revolt between the end of 9th century and the first quarter of 10th. There were moments as long as it lasted when the Cordobese umara´s (sg. amir) authority (now independent from the Abbãsid Caliphate) was reduced to the territory of Córdoba itself. The origin of the revolt in each zone seems to be different and associated to different social groups in each case, although they all seem to be invariably related to an increase of explicit power by the Cordobese. In the Vega of Granada, the most important rebels are Arabs, though there are some Muwallad/s or Mozárabes. Pottery in this phase is clearly defined due to the research made on the Sombrerete of Madinat Ilbira and the Cerro del Molino del Tercio, keystones of our chronology, and it offers us a quite different panoramic of that of the earlier phase. This new productions have gained a characteristic Andalusian aspect, in spite of some heterogeneity in forms and techniques and of the endurance of Late Roman features and domestic outputs. Earlier glazed pieces have been found, and their scarcity marks them as indicators of social status. Moreover, pottery informs us about trade in long and short scales; the latter due to the exchange of cooking wares and the former because of the glazed vessels. Thus, in accordance with the general dynamics that we had exposed before, it is quite clear that there has been an increase of social complexity. The explanation of this fact is not easy, but we can imagine that tribal links that imposed a more or less strict egalitarianism in the Arab and Berber societies would be weakened by new social and economic conditions, that is, concentration of surplus provided by irrigation agriculture and trade in the hands of tribal leaders, who had profited of its contact with the State to stabilise their otherwise temporal (and depending on generosity) status (9) (MALPICA, 2006). Absorption of the non Muslim population depended on patronage, and thus it should have followed the same path. With all these ideas on the table and with what we know about the fitna in the Vega of Granada (GURAIEB, 1950-1959), we may propose that the revolt of the Arabs was not against the State, but against these reinforced tribal leaders. Written sources that inform us about this matter show clearly that the main enemies of the rebel Arabs were the inhabitants of Ilbira, who were mainly Arabs, Muwallad/s and Mozárabes, and those of Loja, the Banu Jãlid, hand of the Cordobese government in the zone.

3. First quarter of the 10th century to beginnings of 11th. In this moment, the urban economy makes its take-off and we can see in excavations an important increase of the size of Ilbira and the consolidation of its wares with several characteristics that seem to be common with the most of the records of other places. These latter can be summoned in a very stabilised and homogeneous technologic and morphologic tradition that allows the easy detection of foreign imports and a net of distribution based on the city of Ilbira. This technological tradition includes the mode of production of nucleated workshops, which, as Peacock defined it, is indicative of urban settlements of a certain importance. The massive appearance of wares that had not been found before, like glazed dishes, is significant of the commercial objective of this production. As the main information that we have on this phase comes from Madinat Ilbira, we do not have so much certainty on the rural environment, but it is difficult to imagine such an expansion of the city without the taking over of resources from the fields around. However, the analysis of the irrigation systems around Ilbira seem to tell quite clearly that there was no major change in property relations in them (which happened after the foundation of Granada) (see MALPICA, 1997; JIMÉNEZ PUERTAS, 2007, for the case of Loja in the same time); the cause of this is probably that the process of diverting rural resources to the city was directed by the same beneficiaries of the social regime of the earlier phase, and that its main objective was to deep the weakening of tribal traditions in support of a new political and social order. This was then the moment in which the alliance between the Cordobese state, guaranteeing of the legality, and the old tribal chiefs, more or less supported by their people, was consumed.

4. Beginnings of the 11th century to beginnings of the 12th . In this period the Cordobese Caliphate reaches its end and the Zirid Kingdom of Granada is founded, meaning the abandonment of Ilbira and the foundation of a new and up to now definitive capital. Pottery shows few innovations in this phase, and all of them mainly morphological; but there is one important aspect, readable through the distribution: in the excavations in Granada we can see clearly the great change between the record earlier than 11th century, essentially rural, and that of later stages, when the wares seem to be quite similar to those of Ilbira in the third phase. This means that we are probably recording the change in distribution that produced the new capital. Moreover, the study of the irrigation systems around shows an evident alteration by cause of privatizations and fragmentations of the old net, based on the monumental Acequia Gorda (Great Channel, in Spanish) coming from the river Genil. This change was not immediate, because it was produced in the middle of the life of the Zirid Kingdom; meanwhile, the provision of water to Granada (the Acequia Gorda was used then to supply water to rural settlements) was assured by the Aynadamar channel, that was founded when the capital was built. All this means that the social change that had been taking place in the Vega of Granada was consumed by the end of the third phase, since its inhabitants, descendant from those that had been able to face the Cordobese state supporting on their tribal links, were not able to even unite in front of the Sinhaya Berbers (Zirids), as it is clearly shown in the Memories of ‘Abd Allah, last king of the latter (GARCÍA GÓMEZ and LÉVI-PROVENÇAL, 1981). This new society was very similar to the Cordobese of centuries before, and based its richness on property of land without attention paid to the tribal tradition. However, this new aristocracy need to justify its fortune by linking its genealogy with old and prestigious tribal lineages, which caused the flourishing of the genre of genealogic literature in this time (cf. TERÉS, 1957).

This was our attempt to offer a enlightening panoramic of the social change occurred in the Vega de Granada between the 8th and the 11th century inside a process common to the whole of al-Andalus and known as islamization. The merit of this perspective is that it allows to link all the information that we have up to now inside a general hypothesis earlier formulated by other scholars (not in complete homogeneity: BARCELÓ, 1993; GUICHARD, 2000-2001; MALPICA, 2006). This hypothesis defends the islamization as a key process to understand the formation of al-Andalus. From this point of view, islamization means not only the adoption of religion by the subject popultion but also the absorption of the pre-Islamic social and economical structures inside a new society that had more to do with the tribal ones from Middle East and North Africa, but which was neither of them completely. In fact, this new society was so “contaminated” by a great number of circumstances from before and earlier than the conquest of the Peninsula that it had to go through complicated dynamics that were to end in the formation of a new state based in Córdoba. Later, the consolidation of this new power structure would require the overcome of the tribal ones by the supporting of the economic élites that were being born due to concentration of surplus allowed by the developments of trade.
Besides, Archaeology provides us evidences that allow clearly to relate the process of Early Medieval al-Andalus with the rest of the Mediterranean. So, the beginning of the process explained above seems to suit very well after another one similar to the one described for the Italian Peninsula by Hodges and Francovich (2003): between 4th and 5th century the Baetica, to which the Vega of Granada seems to belong (ROLDÁN,1983, p. 330) becomes impoverished because of the general decay of trade routes, and land networks are altered because aristocrats find new interest in controlling the local resources through urban power, and thus they move their residences towards the cities. This phase was maybe shorter than in Italy, because the unrest caused by the Barbarian invasions of beginnings of the 5th century were only the start of a long and difficult period before the Visigothic rule finally reached the Southern Peninsula. The Baetica and the Cartaghiniensis were only hardly controlled by the Goths, much less when the Bizantines invaded them, and this situation would endure until the end of the 6th century (SALVADOR, 1990; RAMOS, 2003). Archaeological research on the Vega has showed that there are traces of the establishment of a new network of settlements around the 7th century (one of which might be the Cerro de la Verdeja) (JIMÉNEZ PUERTAS, 2000, pp. 92-97). Thus we may propose a period of final crushing of Roman power structures and of peasant and urban political relative independence around the 5th and 6th centuries, which would be followed by another one of reinforcement of aristocracies in the 7th due to the triumph of the Visigothic state over the “rebel” Southern potentiores and over the Bizantines. This last phase, however, would be truncated by the arrival of the Arab-Berbers invaders, who would bring the option of islamization and thus insertion inside the tribal society through patronage; this last would mean new chances to avoid state control that would have attracted peasants and aristocrats alike). However, the social system of the Muslims would also crystallize in a state in the end, although it would have a dynamic on its own, in which the development of trade and the overcome of tribal structures would be essential, as explained. From this point of view, maybe the formation of al-Andalus has more to compare with that of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms than with the kingdom of Toledo (cf. HODGES, 2001).
If the development above described results correct, then we cannot accept Wickham’s proposal that there is more continuity than rupture between the Visigothic and the Ummayad state (WICKHAM, 2005, p. 41) because the social and fiscal bases of both of them were completely different, which may be explained through the process of islamization. Following the conclusion of his superb book, maybe Charlemagne was possible without Muhammad (WICKHAM, 2005, pp. 821-822), but the same is not true for the Cid or the Catholic Monarchs.
It is not our intention to give a final here to the debate, neither in al-Andalus nor in other places of the Dar al-Islam, but to offer points that someday will be of interest to other scholars and to contribute to a vision of the post-Roman Mediterranean world.


(1) The Spanish word vega comes probably from the Arabic bika’a and is used to mean a plane piece of land of undetermined size and under irrigated and fertile agriculture. Since we haven’t found a specific English word for it, we keep the Spanish spell.
(2) Spanish word, of an imprecise origin (but Arabic without doubt) used since Middle Ages to refer to Christians living in Muslim territories. Its meaning marks a difference of status between them and the Muladíes (Spanish) or Muwallad/s (Arabic), new converts to Islam, but whose genealogy is clearly “infidel”.
(3) This is the scheme followed in the research for my Ph.D.: El poblamiento altomedieval en la Vega de Granada a través de su cerámica (siglos VIII al XI).
(4) In Medieval Archaeology in Spain we use mainly two different Arabic words for fortress: alcazaba (Spanish from Arabic qasaba) for those associated to towns and hisn (original Arabic) for those isolated in rural areas (there are more Arabic words, like qala’a or qasr used for purpose of distinction, but these two are the most important by far). The Sombrerete has been defined as the former because of its location in the known limits of the city.
(5) The excavation of the Madraza (from the Arabic madrasa, Quranic school founded by a Nasrid king in 14th century) has been performed by the team of Professor Malpica and it has shown a clear perspective of the evolution of the historical place since the 10th century to present day. The earlier phases are without any doubt of reorganization of a rural space into an urban one. We owe this information to the courtesy of Professor Malpica.
(6) This argument is based in a supposed equivalence between ethnical and Technological differences, that is, between the two societies observed by Guichard and the two general techniques that were used in Early Middle Ages in the peninsula: hand (Late Roman) and wheel (Islamic). Such a radical point of view has never been shared by the same Guichard and it has been severly critizised by other “Guichardian” researchers, like Barceló and his team (a point of view in which we completely agree).
(7) The aynad were special troops sent from Orient to the West to suprime the Bereber revolt of the mid-8th century. They were clearly differenced from the earlier arrived Muslims, the balad. Aynad received this name because of their provenience from the original four aynad in Middle East, plus one fifth coming from Egypt, and had the characteristic of being troops (or maybe complete tribal groups) not garrisoned in cities or amsar (sg. misr), against the general tendency during the Islamic advance on the North and the West. They may have carry this habit to the Iberian Peninsula, thus originating a different class of settlements. For the aynad, see HALDON, 1995 and GUICHARD, 1998.
(9) This consideration has allowed us to guess the situation of two new Early Medieval sites in the Vega already, although excavations in them have not been performed yet.
(10) Although we are not dealing on the same of society, we consider that the role of generosity in the character of a tribal chief has much to do with the one explained by Sahlins for the primitive societies (1974, pp. 223-251)


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1 Por qué está en inglé?
Comentario realizado por Why. 24/1/08 6:00h

¿Y por qué no?

¿Y qué más da que esté en inglés? También se han colgado artículos en portugués o italiano...
Ganas de tocar las narices, oye...
Comentario realizado por WYZ. 24/1/08 6:27h
3 El artículo se escribió originalmente en inglés porque está pendiente su publicación en una revista de difusión internacional. No hay una versión completa, con todas las notas y actualizada en español, y es por eso que hemos preferido su publicació0n en inglés.
Comentario realizado por José Cristobal Carvajal López. 24/1/08 6:30h
4 tú intenta leerlo en inglés, con un diccionario bilingüe al lado, y verás como a) lo entiendes perfectamente; y b) te viene bien para refrescar/aprender tu inglés.
Comentario realizado por Mrc´s. 26/1/08 8:41h

don´t nobody go nowhere...!

Si vas a publicar el texto en una revista internacional conviene que lo revise un profesional de la traducción. Tal como está no resiste una lectura por un público académico no ya anglosajón, sino simplemente culto. Te doy dos ejemplos, uno del título y otro del último párrafo, para que veas que no exagero.
1) "Islamization through archaeology" quiere decir "islamización mediante la arqueología". En inglés lo que supongo que quieres decir se dice "islamization in the light of archaeology", o, más en la línea anglosajona de titular: "Islamization in Al-Andalus: the archaeological evidence", "Islamization in Al-Andalus: a discussion of the archaeological evidence" etc. Por otra parte, el lector académico está acostumbrado a expresiones como "the Ghutta plain of Damascus", lo que nosotros llamamos la Ghutta de Damasco. La Vega de Granada para este lector es sencillamente "the Vega plain of Granada". Muestras poca familiaridad con una expresión anglosajona (la manera de referirse a la Ghutta) que debería serte familiar por sus implicaciones históricas y arqueológicas.
2) En el último párrafo se lee: "It is not our intention to give a final here to the debate, neither in al-Andalus nor in other places of the Dar al-Islam". En inglés estándar no se permiten las dobles negaciones, con que no te digo nada de las tres que hilas aquí, teniendo en cuenta el público a quien va dirigido. Otra cosa es que en los conciertos el líder se despida en los recesos con un "don´t nobody go nowhere...!"
Para la comunidad académica anglosajona su lengua es una cosa seria. Les irrita que los académicos del mundo se la inventen, aunque son educados y suelen sufrirlo en silencio. Simplemente pensarán que el autor de este texto cae, como mínimo, en algo que aborrecen: el pecado de "self-indulgence", que en su manifestación profesional es para ellos un indicio de "poor scholarship". No te tomarán en serio. Si quieres tener una mínima oportunidad con el texto, haz que lo traduzcan al inglés.
Comentario realizado por un lector. 26/1/08 8:58h
6 Lo primero dar las gracias al autor del artículo, por su trabajo tanto en la labor de campo en la arqueología como en esta página, gracias a los innumerables artículos que cuelga, y felicitarle por la publicación, junto a Antonio Malpica, de su primer libro "Estudios de cerámica tardorromana y altomedieval" y segundo, decir que el texto es comprensible y legible a pesar de esos minuciosos errores, justificándolo de esta manera, ya que no se trata de un filólogo de lengua inglesa, y afirmando por tanto, que sí lo tomarán en serio y que tendrá oportunidad con él.
Sin más, terminar agradeciendo las críticas, siempre que sean constructivas, y reiterar de nuevo en esta página que se termine con el anonimato, puesto que como ya se ha dicho anteriormente, es solo una forma legítima de protegerse.
Comentario realizado por Manuel. 26/1/08 22:27h
7 Gracias a todos los comentarios, los miro como constuctivos. Sólo quería aclarar, para el desconocido lector, que no soy un filólogo ni he tenido oportunidad desde hace mucho tiempo para estar un tiempo largo en un país angloparlante, como parece su caso. De todas formas, no estoy tan loco como para enviar el texto sin revisión a su publicación. Para ello lo envié al Profesor Richard Hodges, el cual dio su visto bueno a la redacción y me realizó una serie de correcciones de índole más histórica y arqueológica que lingüística. De todas formas agradezco las indicaciones, y considero una pena que no se me hayan señalado más errores, puesto que más habría aprendido.
Comentario realizado por José Cristóbal Carvajal López. 27/1/08 8:45h

Mucha forma y poco contenido

Mucho debate sobre las formas y la lingüistica del artículo, pero... ¿Nadie se atreve a debatir lo que en él se dice?
Comentario realizado por UveDobleCetaEquis. 27/1/08 10:33h
9 El artículo es GENIAL y punto. Aquí pasa lo de siempre unos cuantos anónimos buscándole los tres pies al gato y aprovechándose de la buena voluntad de un gran investigador que quiere difundir su investigación...
Comentario realizado por Alifato ب س م. 27/1/08 22:11h
10 Me uno firmemente a la opinión de Alifato.
Hay mucha gente que visita esta página y añade comentarios a artículos y noticias, escudados en un psudónimo, y con la simple intención de hacer daño e intentar menoscavar una labor investigadora tan encomiable como la que realiza José Cristóbal Carvajal, que ya ha recibido más de una crítica aireada y sin fundamento, lanzada desde el desprecio y la mala leche.
Me uno de nuevo a la felicitación por la labor investigadora y por el buen hacer de este investigador y del grupo de investigación al que pertenece.
Suerte y ánimo.
Comentario realizado por Marcos. 28/1/08 7:35h

Los mismos

Es curioso que siempre se critica a los mismos y me temo que por los mismos. En fin, me uno a las felicitaciones que se han hecho sobre el artículo, que me parece sumamente interesante y capaz de abrir caminos que parecían cerrados.
Comentario realizado por Sawwar. 28/1/08 9:04h
12 Pues sí, los mismos de siempre
Comentario realizado por Miguel. 30/1/08 8:28h
13 Pareceis la gata flora, si se la meten chilla y si se la sacan llora
Comentario realizado por the taliban man. 31/1/08 11:15h
14 Me encanta esta página como elemento de aprendizaje de algunas prácticas y vocabulario sexual. Felicito a él/los administrador/es por esta categoría multidisciplinar que le imprimen además de por su descarado machismo en tolerar ciertos comentarios. Es asimismo gratificante que una página de contenido tan serio se dedique a fomentar discusiones de patio de vecinos. A lo mejor es que no es tan seria y sólo quiere parecerlo.
Comentario realizado por atónito. 16/2/08 22:32h
15 Me gustaría que se mostrase algo más de respeto por los administradores de esta página, que son los que han permitido esta primera publicación de mi artículo. Por favor, las críticas en este foro deberían dirigirse hacia mi trabajo o incluso hacia mí, aún a riesgo de que me tachen de egocéntrico (las felicitaciones también son bienvenidas, gracias). Algunos comentarios vertidos parecen encerrar cierto encono personal entre los participantes y estoy seguro de que podrían resolverse en otros escenarios. Gracias.
Comentario realizado por José Cristóbal Carvajal López. 18/2/08 10:31h
16 No creo que los comentarios de algunos visitantes a esta página sean un buen indicador para enjuiciar todo el trabajo que aquí se hace, me parece algo simplista, José Cristóbal tiene razón.
Comentario realizado por TK. 19/2/08 21:27h
17 Pido perdón si alguien se ha sentido ofendido por una expresión coloquial, la única intención era la de mostrar mi disconformidad con aquellos o aquellas que nunca están contentos o satisfechos, a aquellos que quieren criticar sin más argumento que la mera crítica.
Es posible que la publicación en una lengua no oficial en el Estado español pueda ser criticada, pero en esta misma sección hay artículos que se han "colgado" en su idioma original. Este artículo está dirigido a una publicación foránea, creo que es interesante la primicia de su publicación, aunque no sea la definitiva.
Gracias a todos por hacer esta página cada día algo mejor.
Comentario realizado por taliban man. 20/2/08 9:51h
18 Je suis tombé sur cette article par hasard. Je te l'envoie, des fois que ça t'intéresse.
Comentario realizado por fernandes carlos. 18/2/09 2:07h

Publicación del artículo

Una versión más corta del artículo, pero en un inglés mejorado, será publicada en el número 320, vol. 83 de Antiquity. Todavía no se han confirmado los números de páginas. Saldrá el 28 de mayo en, y el 1 de junio en impresión.

A shorter version of this article, and in improved English, will be published in Antiquity, no. 320, vol. 83. The page numbers are still to be confirmed. It will be issued in the website in 28th May, and the printed copy will be available from 1st June
Comentario realizado por José Cristóbal Carvajal López. 18/2/09 3:16h

Je parle francais

Cuando pueda publiquelo en castellano señor Carvajal en esta misma revista para que todos podamos leerlo; un cordial saludo.
Comentario realizado por Neville. 27/2/09 7:32h
21 En un comentario de más arriba explico las razones por las que este artículo se escribió originalmente en inglés, aunque no fuera el más correcto.
No sé si los administradores de la página querrán reiterar una publicación del mismo artículo, aunque sea en idiomas distintos. Yo por mi parte agradezco mucho el interés que demuestra, Sr. Neville, y le animo a que me envíe su dirección electrónica a mi correo: Gustoso le enviaré una traducción en castellano del artículo. Un saludo.
Comentario realizado por José Cristóbal Carvajal López. 27/2/09 10:46h

Improved English: not quite there yet

THARGlish (19 above):
"A shorter version of this article, and in improved English, will be published in Antiquity... The page numbers are still to be confirmed. It will be issued in the website... in 28th May, and the printed copy will be available from 1st June"
"A condensed version of this paper written in a polished English is scheduled for publication in Antiquity... Page numbering is yet to be confirmed. It will be posted on the site... on May 28th, the hard copy will be available from 1st June".
Comentario realizado por el lector. 6/3/09 7:51h

Ultracorrección y algo más

Estimado lector:

Te envío el mensaje de Antiquity en el que me comunican la publicación del artículo:

"I refer to your forthcoming Antiquity article. The article will be published in the June issue of the journal, Volume 83, Issue 320. As soon as I have confirmation of the page numbers, I will send these on to you.
The volume will be available online at from 28 May and the printed copy of the journal will be available from 1 June. As soon as it is available, I will send you a pdf of the finished article".

Como verás, he calcado algunas expresiones (como "published" y "page numbers"). Esto significa que estás corrigiendo a un nativo, y a uno que precisamente parece saber como usar su lenguaje. Un idioma siempre ofrece alternativas, y, aunque a veces tengan matices importantes, éstos también pueden depender del contexto. Lo mire por donde lo mire, creo que te estás pasando de listo.

Mira, si lo que quieres es demostrar que yo escribo muy mal en inglés, pues no te preocupes, lo admito, como admito que calco expresiones (y a veces me equivoco). Denúnciame a la ONU o a la Junta de Andalucía (tanto da). Pero no me parece bien el hecho de que identifiques mi falta de conocimiento con la de todo el grupo de investigación a la que pertenezco, THARG (lo haces al calificar el texto que yo he escrito como perteneciente a un idioma de tu invención, el THARGlish). Me sugiere que lo tuyo no va tanto contra mí como contra lo que el grupo de investigación hace y/o representa. Como no lo haces ni directamente ni abiertamente, me voy a permitir calificar de cobarde tu actitud. Por favor, en esta sección, centra tus críticas cobardes en mí, no intentes manchar a otros.

Aunque manifiestamente malintencionado hacia mí, te agradecería tu crítica, siempre es una ocasión para aprender (no inglés, en este caso). Pero no puedo, por lo malintencionado para con otros. Por favor, piénsatelo bien antes de volver a escribir en ese pla
Comentario realizado por Jose Cristóbal Carvajal López. 6/3/09 11:30h

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