Research Unit Islamic Archaeology
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
Institut für Orient- und Asienwissenschaften
Abt. Islamwissenschaft und Nahostsprachen
Forschungseinheit Islamische Archäologie
Brühler Straße 7
53119 Bonn
Telefon: +49 228 73 -60237
Fax: +49 228 73 - 60241
E-mail: aia[at]

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Prof. Walker

Prof. Dr. Bethany J. Walker


Doctoral Students

Associate Researchers



Sie sind hier: Startseite Associated Members Alumni Dr. Nicolò Pini

Dr. Nicolò Pini


Affiliation: Universität zu Köln (Germany), a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne


Scholarship: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)


PhD Project:


Title: “Arab cities. Tribal structure and settlements’ organization in the Near East between Hellenism and Early Islamic period.”

This research project investigates the inner organization of settlements in ancient Syria and Arabia between the Classical and Byzantine periods and the Early Islamic. It also tries to clarify the role of nomads and their sedentarization, in determining both social structure of the settled communities and the settlement pattern.
The project develops from my Master’s thesis on an ancient site in northern Jordan, Umm es-Surab. This work was part of the project Building Archaeology in Jordan, organized by the Laboratorio di Archeologia dell’Architettura (LAARCH) of the University of Siena, which is working on a chrono-typological atlas of ancient buildings techniques (from the Hellenistic to the Early Islamic periods) since 2005. In my M.A. thesis, I have firstly addressed the urban development and organization of the settlement, which, as in many other cases in Syria and Jordan, shows a compact and closed-to-the-outside structure of the blocks. In this regard, I explored the possible connections between this spatial organization and the socio-tribal structure of the local Arab population.
My PhD project intends to further investigate this topic. In fact, the lack of precise chronological data left many questions unanswered. Moreover, the geographical area of research will be extended to other regions, where a similar social context and historical development may be found: i.e. the central part of the today’s Jordan, mainly around Madaba; the southern Hauran (Northern Jordan) and the central Hauran (Syria); and the Negev, in Israel.
Of course, the transition between the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods represents a crucial chronological anchor for the research. For many scholars from different disciplines believed that the arrival of Islam, and the political changes in its wake, brought a radical change both in the social structure of the local communities, and in the pattern of settlement, with a widespread abandonment of towns and villages.
This narrative has been challenged, underlining the aspects of continuity between the two periods. However, if the recent focus of archaeological research in the area had been the changes in the regional settlement patterns, rarely was a socio-anthropological investigation within these settlements undertaken. We may suppose that tribal organization may have also continued to play a role and may be detected at various sites. In this context, one should also problematize the “Islamic” city, long a topic in art historical circles. I would like to introduce this topic within the larger archaeological debates on the period, to identify a society organized by tribes and clans, where the urban pattern follows this social structure. In that case, we should talk not about an “Islamic” city, but about an “Arab” one.
The methodological approach is interdisciplinary: the archaeological analysis offers us fundamental information on the chronological development of the settlements and on the functional and cultural aspects of the different areas. On the other hand, only anthropology provides us with the theory and scholarly language to explore such phenomena as tribalism, sedentarization, and, in general, nomadic-settled relations, to describe properly the social structure and the changes that might have occurred after the arrival of the Islam.
The work itself is conceived mainly as a methodological tool to approach the settlements analysis, rather than a catalogue of case studies. In particular, each site is investigated on three different levels, namely: the entire settlement; the quarter/block; the house. Ultimately, each one of these levels allows to highlight better possible correlation between the spatial organizational patterns and the several groups in the social structures.


Curriculum Vitae



  • 2008 - 2011: Bachelor Degree in Archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
  • September 2011: Bachelor Thesis „Strumenti informatici web-based per l’archeologia dell’Architettura. Applicazione di DBSite e SICaR allo studio di un complesso architettonico del sito giordano di Umm es-Surab“
  • 2011 - 2013: Master Degree in Archaeology at the Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
  • 2011 - 2012: Erasmus at the Universität zu Köln (Germany)
  • Dezember 2013: Master Thesis „Villaggi e tribù tra ellenismo e periodo omayyade nell’Hauran meridionale. Un’analisi urbanistica e antropologica dell’insediamento di Umm es-Surab“
  • 2014 –2017: PhD in Classic Archaeology at the Universität zu Köln (Germany)

Archaeological Work

  • 2006: Excavation at St. Saviour Church (York, UK), York Archaeological Trust
  • 2007: Excavation at Hungate (York, UK), York Archaeological Trust
  • 2008-2009: Workshop “Drawing and Typology of prehistoric Ceramic”, Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
  • 2009: Excavation at Karnak Temples (Luxor, Egypt), Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt
  • 2010: Excavation at Tell al-Mashhad (Jordan), Associazione OLIM (Rome, Italy)
  • 2010: Excavation at Canonica di S. Niccolò (Montieri, Grosseto, Italy), Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
  • 2011: Intensive Program Erasmus – Vitoria 2010/2011: “Geometric Documentation of Heritage: European Integration of Technlogies” TOPCART at the University College of Engineering of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country University
  • 2011: Excavation at Tell al-Mashhad (Jordan), Associazione OLIM (Rome, Italy)
  • 2011: “Building archaeology in Jordan” Project (Umm es-Surab, Mafraq, Jordan), Università degli Studi di Siena (Italy)
  • 2013: Basic Security in the Field II (BSITF II) e Advanced Security in the Field, United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS)
  • 2013: Excavation at S. Marina (Petralia Soprana, Palermo, Italy), Università di Palermo (Italy)
  • 2014: Excavation at S. Marina (Petralia Soprana, Palermo, Italy), Università di Palermo (Italy)
  • 2015: Excavation at Haluza/Elusa (Negev, Israele), Universität zu Köln (Germany)
  • 2015: Workshop “3D GIS and Augmented Reality”, Darteq and University of Uppsala
  • 2015: “Northern Jordan Project” (Umm Qais, Jordan), DFG - Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
  • 2016: Excavation at Tell Hisban (Jordan), Andrews University and Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn