This collection of maps was created by the ERC-funded project The Early Islamic Empire at Work. The View from the Regions Toward the Center at Hamburg University (2014-2019), led by Stefan Heidemann.
Each project member focused on a key region in the early Islamic empire:
The maps on this website are byproducts of their research.
The web maps were designed and created by Alexander Walmsley, in cooperation with Peter Verkinderen.
All sites were mapped by team members in Google Earth. Maxim Romanov's digitization of Georgette Cornu's Atlas du monde arabo-islamique à l’époque classique provided a first, approximate location for many sites. For every site, an attempt was made to refine this location, if possible pinpointing it to physical remains from the early Islamic period. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, various Tübingen Atlas der Vorderen Orient (TAVO) Beihefte, Geonames.org, and the now defunct Panoramio photo sharing platform proved extremely helpful for identifying and locating sites.
This series of maps represents conceptions of each region as represented in a number of important early Islamic geographical sources. These often describe the regions as networks of cities, towns and villages, connected by roads. They also describe a hierarchy of places and districts within the region. This hierarchy does not necessarily represent the administrative reality at the time of writing of the work. Al-Muqaddasī (late tenth century) in particular is very explicit about this in the introduction (and title: The Best Division of the Regions) of his work: he describes an - in his opinion - ideal division of the early Islamic world, not the actual situation.
In these maps, the subdivision of a region is represented by a colour scheme: the sub-region a site belongs to is represented by the colour of the site's place marker. In the legend in the right-hand corner, the user can select which geographer's conception to represent on the map, and switch on/off specific sub-regions.
The search function in the upper left-hand corner allows the user to search for a place name.
These maps represent the researchers' reconstructions of the functioning of "their" province as an administrative unit and the projection of imperial power into the provinces during a number of phases in the history of the early Islamic Empire.
We actively avoided the more traditional use of coloured areas and borders to represent the territory of each province/sub-region. We consider such a representation misleading, since it suggests a more or less continuous and homogeneous spread of authority and control over territory. In our understanding, imperial power in and over a region in the early Islamic period was highly discontinuous and heterogeneous. Power was concentrated in a number of centres, from which it was devolved to smaller centres; most of any given region was not under firm imperial control. Only in specific river valleys and other areas with intensive agriculture, can we speak of real territorial control.
The size of a square place marker in our maps represents its position in the administrative hierarchy. The specific sub-region it belongs to is indicated by a colour. Lines between sites stress this affiliation, and can be seen as a representation of the devolvement of authority from the centre to the local level on the one hand, and of the bottom-to-top stream of fiscal resources on the other.
Places for which we do not have information regarding their administrative belonging in a specific period are represented by grey dots. The gradually increasing number of coloured squares and connecting lines should not be interpreted as the growing penetration of imperial power into the province, but is rather the result of more detailed information for the later periods provided by the sources. In addition to administrative hierarchy, the maps contain information on active mints, routes, harbours and bishoprics in the region. Each of these layers can be switched on and off using the checkbuttons on the upper right-hand side.
These reconstructions on the provincial level are based on references to appointments and dismissals of officials and other events related to the administrative hierarchy of the province in a wide range of early Islamic (mostly historiographical and geographical) sources, and to a minor extent the numismatic evidence.
An additional map/timeline for the imperial level has been created, based mostly on data from the Encyclopaedia of Islam and numismatic data. This map is a work in progress, and the data is far from complete. We would welcome input from other researchers. For suggestions, comments and corrections, please contact Peter Verkinderen.
This is a timeline of active mints in the Islamic empire until the year 399AH / 1009 CE. The data is derived from "Ömer Diler's overview of Islamic mints.Currently, Arab-Sasanian, Arab-Byzantine and Arab-Latin coins are excluded from the timeline. Additions and corrections are projected for future versions of this timeline.
Two colour layers are available for this timeline: one in which the colour represents the metal (gold, silver, copper) of the coins struck at the mint in a specific year; and another in which the colour represents the authority (dynasty, rebel, local governor or ruler) that was responsible for minting these coins.
An overview of the mints and minting authorities active in a specific year can be found in the Mint info pane on the left-hand side.
For suggestions, comments and corrections, please contact Peter Verkinderen.
In addition to the digital maps presented on this website, print versions of the conceptual and administrative maps were also produced. These are available for viewing and download on the project Github page.
For the print maps, a series of custom base maps was designed. These base maps sought to draw out certain elements of the landscape that the team felt were important for the interpretation of the data. Although the environmental context of the Early Islamic period was not the primary focus of this project, it was thought that removing the data from this context (e.g. by displaying it on a "blank" map with only the coastlines for geographic guidance) would be to overlook the importance of the physical environment as an influencing factor for historical change. As such, they include important physical features such as shaded relief, land use, inland water bodies, and rivers. The metadata for these maps can be downloaded here.
Where possible, modern datasets were adjusted to reflect known historical differences. Among others, a certain number of major adjustments were made:
The print maps have been exported in 32-bit png format at a standard resolution of 600 dpi. The dimensions were calculated in order to correspond to the guidelines for De Gruyter's medium book format: the shortest edge is always 12.1cm and the longest never greater than 19.3cm. Each regional sub-folder includes a legend - this was exported as a separate image so that it could be combined in a number of ways with the maps in order to accommodate different page layouts.