Evidence of Early Contact with Islam

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Antiquity, an Archaeology quarterly, reports in its December issue on the often under-reported historical incidences of contact between Britain & Ireland and Islamic cultures. In a fascinating article, Andrew Petersen documents the different types of archaeological finds which suggest interaction through the centuries.

Pottery, glass and ceramics originating in the Middle East, Moorish Spain, or merely bearing the influence of Islamic art have been found in sites throughout both Ireland and Britain. These can date from as early as the ninth century. Arab dinars are among the coins that have been found in Scandanavia, a relic of Viking raids on these shores.

However, perhaps the most surprising element of the brief review to the non-specialist reader is the indirect but strong influences which Islam held over early modern British and European architecture as a whole. The author traces a line from seventh-century Palestine (the Gothic arch) and ninth-century Iraq (the Tudor four-centre pointed arch) through to prominent Mughal-influenced British buildings such as Brighton's Royal Pavillion.

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