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Professor Timothy Insoll


Extension: 4018

Telephone: 01392 724018

Al-Qasimi Professor of African and Islamic Archaeology

 Professor Timothy Insoll is an archaeologist and Al-Qasimi Professor of African and Islamic archaeology at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. His research interests are in later African archaeology (Iron Age) and Global Islamic archaeology. His personal web site is available here.

He joined the IAIS in 2016 previously having taught in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Manchester (1999-2016). Prior to this he was a Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Cambridge (1995-1998), where he also completed his PhD at the Department of Archaeology (1992-1995). His BA is from the University of Sheffield (1989-1992).

He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Asiatic Society. He is also a specialist assessor for the Cultural Protection Fund of the British Council, and an honorary archaeological advisor to the Court of the Crown Prince of Bahrain, honorary curator of the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board, visiting professor, Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management, Jinka University, Southern Ethiopia (2017-2019), and formerly, honorary academic curator of African Archaeology at Manchester Museum (2014-2016). In the last 5 years he has been an advisory board member, Islamic Galleries re-development, British Museum (2016-2018); scientific committee member for the Institut du Monde Arabe (Paris) exhibition, Islamic Art and Architecture in Africa (2016); a member of the Ellerman Foundation Project steering group for research on and access to Islamic collections, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, and Manchester Art Gallery; on the advisory committee for the development of the new South Asia gallery at Manchester Museum in partnership with the British Museum (2015-2016);  and a scientific committee member (2013) of The Gold Route: Art, Culture, and Trade Across the Sahara Exhibition, Art Institute, Chicago.

He is the author or editor of 10 monographs, 7 edited books and 3 special edited journal issues, 96 journal articles and book chapters, 48 other publications (excluding book reviews) and curator or co-curator of 6 exhibitions, and made 4 teaching films (see biography tab for publications list). In 2013 he co-curated the exhibition, Fragmentary Ancestors. Figurines and Archaeology from Koma Land, at Manchester Museum, which transferred as a permanent exhibit to the National Museum, Accra, Ghana, in 2014. Also in 2012 he co-curated the sub-Saharan Africa section of the major British Museum exhibition, Hajj. Journey to the Heart of Islam. He has also curated the permanent exhibition for the visitor centre and museum at the Al-Khamis Mosque, Bahrain, that opened in January 2017. Most recently he has curated the exhibition, Remembering the Dead in Bahraini Shia Cemeteries (2018), in the Street Gallery, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.

He is currently on the editorial boards of the Journal of Islamic Archaeology, Journal of African Archaeology, Antiquity, Material Religion, Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, and Ghana Social Science Journal. Previously he was on the editorial board of the African Archaeological Review (2000-2012) and joint editor of the series, Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology (2006-2011). He has appeared in various media, particularly in relation to the destruction, protection, and restoration of Islamic heritage in northern Mali (e.g. BBC World News, Al-Jazeera, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio France International), and about his archaeological research in eastern Ethiopia (e.g. BBC World Service, The Daily Telegraph, Newsweek, Radio France International).

Timothy Insoll has 27 years of experience of fieldwork in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, having completed field research in, for example, Pemba Island in Tanzania, Gao and Timbuktu in Mali, the Dahlak Islands in Eritrea, Khambhat in India, and Bilad al-Qadim in Bahrain. During the period 2005-2017 he has directed 13 research expeditions involving 4 seasons of survey and test excavation in Harar and Harlaa, eastern Ethiopia (2014-2017), and 6 seasons of excavations and surveys in the Tong Hills, northern Ghana (2004-2009), co-directed 2 seasons of funerary inscriptions survey, and directed 1 season of archaeological excavation in Bahrain (2014-2017), and participated in 2 other research expeditions in Koma Land, Ghana (2010-2011).

He is currently the principal investigator on the ERC Advanced Grant funded research project Becoming Muslim: Conversion to Islam and Islamisation in Eastern Ethiopia (694254 ERC-2015-AdG). Over the past 10 years, his research has been funded as PI by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and Van Berchem Foundation (2014-2016), Origins of Harar, Ethiopia, as co-PI by the Wellcome Trust and Zochonis Charitable Trust (2013), Fragmentary Ancestors, and as PI by the Wellcome Trust (2008-2011) for the The Use of Shrines for Medicinal Purposes in Northern Ghana. An Archaeological and Analytical Study.

At Manchester Timothy Insoll taught the courses Introduction to African Archaeology (level 2), Research Issues in African Archaeology (level 3), Islamic Archaeology (level 3), and the Archaeology of Rituals and Religions (MA), and team taught and directed, Introduction to World Archaeology (Level 1), and Critical Themes in World Archaeology (MA). At Exeter he is currently teaching on the courses, Introduction to Islamic Archaeology (level 1), Regions and Empires in Islamic Archaeology, and Ethnography of the Middle East (level 2).