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Archaeology of Crusader Palestine - 20 credits (HS2384)

Course Description

Following the conquest of Jerusalem by the First Crusade in 1099, Palestine was settled by immigrants from western Europe who brought with them their own language, religion, and systems of social, military and ecclesiastical organization. The kingdom of Jerusalem thus created lasted for almost two centuries.

This module introduces students to the material culture of the Frankish settlers in Palestine in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD and investigates the degree to which it affected – and was affected by – that of the indigenous Christians, Muslims and others whom they found already occupying the land.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Alternate (even, 2012-13, 2014-15) years. Autumn and Spring semesters.

Prerequisites: N/A

Necessary for: N/A

Tutor: Professor Denys Pringle

Teaching methods

  • Twenty weekly lectures of 50 minutes
  • and six seminars .


The course will be assessed by:

  • One essay of not more than 2,500 words (50% of module mark); and
  • A two-hour examination consisting of two questions (50% of module mark).

Summary of course content

1.Introduction [Lectures 1-2]: Historical outline and Geography of the Holy Land; Definitions: Palestine, Crusades, Archaeology; Sources of evidence for the material culture of Crusader Palestine: documentary sources, maps, artefacts, excavations, surveys

2.Palestine before the Crusades [Lectures 3-4]: Roman-Byzantine period; The Umayyads; The Abbasids, Tulunids, Fatimids and Seljuks

3.Crusader Jerusalem [Lectures 5-6]: Population; Walls and Gates; The Temple and the Citadel; The Holy Sepulchre and other churches; Houses, markets, water supply, burial; Jerusalem in the 13th century

4.Urban settlement [Lectures 7-8]: The Medieval Islamic City; What was a town or city?; The coastal towns: Acre, Ascalon, Tyre, Beirut, Sidon, Caesarea, ‘Atlit, Jaffa, Arsuf; The inland towns: Ramla, Nablus, Banyas, Tiberias, Caymont

5. The Countryside [Lectures 9-10]: Native villages: land divisions, cropping regimes, peasants/villeins, rents and renders; Demesne lands; Evidence for Frankish rural exploitation and settlement; Fiefs, towers and manor houses; Settlement dependent on a castle; Settlement in existing native Christian villages; New setlements; Analysis of faunal and plant remains from excavations

6.Castles [Lectures 11-12]: Nature and function of castles: domestic, administrative, defensive, offensive, strategic, relation to settlement; Development of Crusader castles; Functional analysis: comparison of secular and military-order castles; Contribution of the Crusades to development of Western fortification; Relationship of fortification to siege techniques

7.Churches: [Lectures 13-15]: The Secular Church: The Eastern Christian Communities: Greeks, Armenians, Syrians; The Latin cathedrals; Latin Parish Churches; The distribution of churches. Monasteries and Holy Places: Augustinians, Benedictines, Cluniacs, Cistercians, Premonstratensians, Carmelites; Holy Places and pilgrimage (and the Franciscans); Churches of the Military Orders; Hospitals, burial and disease

8.Art [Lectures 16-17]: What is Crusader art? Manuscript illumination, Wall paintings, Mosaics, Sculpture

9.Crafts [Lecture 18]: Pottery, Glass, Metalwork: including arms and armour

10.Coinage [Lecture 19]

11.Conclusion [Lecture 20]: Was there a distinctive Syro-Frankish culture and society? Colonialism, cultural adaptation, interaction and change; Lasting effects of Crusader colonization

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to demonstrate a broad knowledge and understanding of the following aspects of the material culture of Crusader Palestine:

a) the sources of information available;

b) the changes that affected settlement in towns and the countryside as a result of the Frankish conquest;

c) the development of castles and other fortifications;

d) the form and function of Catholic and Orthodox churches and monasteries;

e) developments in industrial processes and artefact production;

f) the stylistic interaction between East and West in the sphere of art, scuplture and architecture;

g) the coinage of the kingdom of Jerusalem;

h) the principal arguments concerning the degree of social and cultural assimilation that occurred between the Franks and the indigenous inhabitants.

In addition, students should be able to show through their written work skill in evaluating and utilizing archaeological evidence of various types in discussing cultural interaction, adaptation and change in Crusader Palestine.

Suggested book purchases

Prawer, J. (1972). The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: European Colonialism in the Middle Ages.London. [D182.P7]. The US edition of this, entitled The Crusaders’ Kingdom: European Colonialism in the Middle Ages (New York 1972), has been reprinted as a paperback (2001).

Suggested preparatory reading

Prawer, J. (1972). As above.

Riley-Smith, J. (1995). (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades. Oxford. [D157.O9] [Also available in paperback (with fewer pictures) as The Oxford History of the Crusades, Oxford (1999).]