Monthly Archives: January 2014

Arabic numerals

Our digital numeral system came first from India, but spent a long time as the dominant system in the Arabic kingdoms before entering Latin and Europe. The numbers aren’t really Arabic in the way a keffiyeh is; but they became … Continue reading

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Pottery in Spain

If you traveled in 10th or 11th century Spain, you’d see a sharp contrast in its regional pottery. During this high-water point in Muslim Andalusia’s power, the map had stabilized into a large southern Muslim nation and a strip of … Continue reading

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10th century Pottery

Having never been a potter myself, I could never understand why archeologists seemed to assume that some tribe or region made the same kind of pottery over and over. They name prehistoric cultures that way: the Grey Ware culture, the … Continue reading

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The origins of feudalism

During the 10th century, two major changes came to the land of the Franks. They were unconnected, but each contributed in its own way to the establishment of medieval feudalism. The first monastery in France was in Tours, established by … Continue reading

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Battle for the North Mediterranean

Frankish law always had a problem with inheritance; there’s really no ideal way to manage the inheritance of land. As tribesmen who found themselves ruling a nation, at first they continued their tradition of dividing possessions among a man’s sons. … Continue reading

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Quicksilver diplomacy

In the years of Ziryab’s influence, the Emirs of Andalusia established so much independence from Baghdad that at last, Abd al-Rahman III called himself a Caliph, not an Emir. Emir means something like Prince; it implies high but subordinate rank. … Continue reading

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The glass of fashion

The court at Baghdad was doubtless much more urbane than upstart Cordoba’s. Baghdad was based in ancient Persian culture: its customs, food, musical instruments, poetry, and textiles. Even Abd al-Rahman, coming from Damascus, wasn’t as steeped in Persian luxuries as … Continue reading

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Cordoba

Cordoba probably became the capital of Muslim administration because during the conquest years, around 711-715, it did not surrender. It was conquered militarily. When cities surrendered, their current officials could work out a deal to send tribute; when they didn’t, … Continue reading

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More Mozarabic words in English

The Arabic way of life in Spain introduced some traditional musical instruments that hadn’t been part of Europe before. Names of musical instruments were far from standardized in the Middle Ages, perhaps because they were rarely enough seen. Whatever a … Continue reading

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Mozarabic exports

Spanish Andalusia got involved in Europe’s international markets in completely new ways. In the early Middle Ages, trade operated mostly through fairs. Near to major highways, rivers and harbors, certain places had a traditional time during the year when people … Continue reading

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