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Early Medieval Urbanism in Western India: the Artefactual Evidence

South Asia represents a vital component in the examination of maritime communication and network urbanism throughout the early medieval period. Not only have its economic, socio-political and cultural dynamics rarely been factored into wider conceptions of the early medieval world; but it also constitutes a key sector through which consideration of trade and urbanism during this period can be broadened out beyond the traditional scope of Europe and Arabia.

However, due to different trajectories of scholarship in South Asia, our knowledge of trade and urbanism in India during the early medieval period is not yet comparable to that of other parts of the world.  Questions and theories are still largely driven by historical research, and are based primarily on the epigraphic evidence rather than on other aspects of material culture.

The primary focus of this part of the project is thus to build up a picture of urbanism in West India (being that part of the subcontinent that had direct contact with Arabia, and, by extension, Africa and Europe) through examination of the artefactual evidence from excavated towns and ports along the coast.  It is hoped that this will also result in the identification of various categories of material that will feed into other areas of the project.

Having characterised these settlements on the basis of their material remains, the next phase of research will be to investigate the maritime links between West India, Arabia and Africa through examination of commodities of international trade and, crucially, consideration of differences and similarities in the character urbanism that exist in each region.

The results of this work will not only feed back into theories of trade and urbanism in South Asia through reassessment of the historical sources, but will also enable the formulation of a number of comparative perspectives that will improve our understanding of these dynamics during the early medieval period in general.