Comparative Eurasian Statecraft: al-Andalus in the context of the Medieval West

Author(s): James Boone

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Mind the Gap: Exploring Uncharted Territories in Medieval European Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Attempts to describe and explain differences between Western and Asian state structures have a long history, starting with Marx’s Asiatic Mode of Production and Wittfogel’s Oriental Despotism.The bottom-up approach offered here argues that differences between the two forms are due largely to the way primary producers are organized locally, which in turn affects how the state extracts surplus from producers.This case study, based in political ecology and landscape archaeology, compares state development north and south of the Pyrenees in the second half of the first millennium AD.In al-Andalus, the Córdoba Caliphate took the form of a highly centralized Middle Eastern style polity, complete a separate, self-sufficient palace complex with resident full-time craft specialists producing sumptuary pottery, silk, bronze and ivory crafts, all centered around one of the largest cities in the world at the time.The state funded itself with taxes drawn from tribally organized land tenure and primary production.

North of the Pyrenees, contemporary polities consisted of long chains of personal dependence that stretched from the monarch to primary producing households, with minimal urban development and sumptuary craft production.Here, an ever-weakening rent-based state culminates in a near complete decentralization of power among local and regional lords

Cite this Record

Comparative Eurasian Statecraft: al-Andalus in the context of the Medieval West. James Boone. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451287)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23663