This chapter introduces the main themes discussed in the remainder of the book. The chapter starts by creating a working definition for Islamic archaeology. This definition establishes the most important differences between archaeology and other disciplines engaged in the study of the Islamic past, most notably history and art history. There is also a discussion of the extent to which Islamic archaeology should be considered as a study of the religion of Islam. The second section is an historiographic presentation of Islamic archaeology from its earliest manifestations in the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. This section addresses the main priorities of archaeological investigation during this period, and the extent to which archaeology was conditioned by larger political factors.
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