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.

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Episode 31: Who are the Turks?

Host: Christopher Rose, Outreach Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Carter Vaughn Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in History, The Ohio State University

Turkish merchant in Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan). Prokudin-Gorskii collection, c. 1905-1914.

Over the past two thousands years, the Turkic peoples have migrated and expanded from a small group of pastoral nomads in what is now western China to form Islam’s longest lasting empire, six modern nation-states that bear their names, and large minorities across Eurasia. But … who are the Turks? Do they even form a coherent social category? Where did they come from? And what makes them “Turk”ish?

Guest Carter Vaughn Findley has spent a career working on the Turkic peoples and their history, and helps us trace their long migration from the Gobi to the Bosphorus, adapting, absorbing, and transforming themselves and the societies they interact with along the way.

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