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Material culture, commodities, and consumption in Palestine, 1500-1900

Uzi Baram, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Archaeological research into the Late Islamic period in the Middle East is a fertile field which has rarely been plowed, especially for the period of the Ottoman Empire. A great potential exists for using archaeological materials to address questions of social and historical significance for the integration of the region into the modern world system. In this dissertation, I examine archaeological assemblages from 1500 to 1900, in order to contribute an understanding of consumption and material culture for Middle Eastern archaeology and to shed light on aspects of social change for Palestine during the rule of the Ottoman Empire (1516-1917). I review the state of knowledge on several categories of material culture (settlement pattern, architecture, tombstones, foodways, and ceramics), then focus on clay tobacco pipes as an example of material two levels: (1) their presence in the archaeological record provides chronological tools for furthering archaeological excavations and (2) their synchronic and diachronic patterns are an entry point to discussing societal tensions and global processes of change in the region. The chronological discussions of tobacco pipes provides a tool for differentiating material events--a necessary step for uncovering differences from the archaeological record. The historical background on tobacco as a commodity allows interpretations of the material culture within its social dimensions. Both in terms of diversity of styles over time and their function, the clay tobacco pipes from multiple archaeological sites provide insights into questions of history and social diversity for Palestine. These objects are the case study in this work; I address theoretical issues relating to the study of material culture, methodology for linking objects to social action, techniques for differentiating the corpus of archaeological data, and interpretations of archaeological data within an historical anthropological context. The interpretations lead to a framework for analyzing cultural landscape across the area which is today Israel. This study is conceptualized as the first steps towards an archaeology of Palestine during the Ottoman centuries and an avenue towards an archaeology of capitalism in the Middle East, a way to break down the divide between past and present in the region.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Middle Eastern history

Recommended Citation

Baram, Uzi, "Material culture, commodities, and consumption in Palestine, 1500-1900" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9638925.