Episode 82: What Writing Can Tell Us About the Arabs before Islam

Host: Christopher Rose, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Ahmad al-Jallad, University of Leiden

TaymaniticIn most world history survey courses, Arabia is introduced for the first time only as backstory to the rise of Islam. We’re told that there was a tradition of oral poetry in Arabic, a language native to central Arabia, and that the Qur’an was the zenith of this oral tradition. New evidence, however, suggests that Arabia was linguistically diverse, that the language we’ve come to know as Arabic originated in modern day Jordan, and that the looping cursive writing system that’s become the language’s hallmark wasn’t the original system used to write it. What to make of all this?

Guest Ahmad al-Jallad co-directs archaeological/epigraphic projects in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, uncovering new inscriptions thousands of years old, and shares his research that’s shedding new light on the writings of a complex civilization that lived in the Arabian peninsula for centuries before Islam arose.

Download podcast (mp3—right click to save)

Continue reading

Episode 15: The “Era Between The Empires” of Ancient India

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Patrick Olivelle, Professor, Department of Asian Studies

The 6th century late Gupta period Dashavatara temple Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh at sunset.

Ancient, or Classical, India (300s BC-400s AD) was a seminal period in history. Nearly everything that is associated with classical India, the epics such as the the R?m?ya?a and the Mah?bh?rata, and great temple architecture, came out of this period. Great kings like A?oka left their mark on the classical world. Moreover, this was the period when oral traditions were written down, and the classical Vedic religion began to take on a form that we understand as Hindusim.

Guest Patrick Olivelle from UT’s Department of Asian Studies describes the Maurya and Gupta Empires and the flourishing period of South Asian history “between the empires.”

Download audio (right-click to save)

Continue reading