After leaving school, I worked as an archaeologist, first for the Society of Libyan Studies at Sidi Khrebish in Libya and then, after a lengthy interval travelling in North Africa and Sicily, for the British School at Rome — at Veio, on the South Etruria Survey, and at Tuscania in Lazio.
From 1973-76, I read Modern History (which then began with Marcus Aurelius and ended with the Reform Bill of 1832) at Balliol, and had the immense good fortune to be taught by, amongst others, Peter Brown, Maurice Keen, and Henry Mayer-Harting. I began my doctoral research on the Muslims of Norman Sicily at Balliol and, thanks to a Study Abroad Scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust, continued at the University of Palermo, under the supervision first of Henry Mayer-Harting and then of Michael Brett (School of Oriental and African Studies, London). In 1981, I was elected to a Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowship at Wolfson College (Oxford), where I finally completed my doctorate in 1983. I was appointed "New Blood" Lecturer in Early Islamic Archaeology at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1984, and returned to Oxford and to Wolfson in 1990 as University Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology. I became the first Director of the Khalili Research Centre for the Art and Material Culture of the Middle East in 2004, and Professor of the Art and Archaeology of the Islamic Mediterranean in 2006.
Throughout my career, I have been principally interested in the relationship between Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Mediterranean, especially as manifested in material and visual culture. I have edited two collections of studies on Jerusalem in the early Islamic period (Bayt al-Maqdis Parts One and Two, Oxford, 1992, 1999), and have written some twenty articles on the transition from Late Antiquity to Middle Islam in the Levant. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I directed with Alison McQuitty the excavations at Khirbat Faris in Jordan. I began to investigate the early Islamic rock crystal "industry" in 2010 with my co-director Elise Morero (KRC, Oxford). We are now writing up our results and conclusions: a first monograph, Frank Mills and the Magnificent Seven: The Biographies of a Victorian Collector and Seven Fatimid Rock Crystal Ewers, will be published in 2019 or 2020, to be followed later by a second, more general volume.
Most of my work has been concentrated on the art history, archaeology, and social and economic history of Sicily under Muslim and Norman rule (827–1266). In addition to more than seventy articles in this field, I have published a monograph on the Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily (Cambridge, 2002), and a monograph-sized study of the painted ceilings and Arabic inscriptions of the Cappella Palatina in the Norman Palace in Palermo, as part of the first comprehensive study of the chapel (La Cappella Palatina a Palermo. Mirabilia Italiae XV, ed. Beat Brenk, 4 vols., Franco Cosimo Panini: Modena, 2010).
I warmly encourage enquiries from potential students wishing to conduct doctoral research in the archaeology, history and art history of Sicily under Muslim and Norman rule. Please contact me by email no later than November in the year before which you are seeking admission.
I currently supervise or have recently supervised the following research students (for students who graduated before 2010, see KRC Students’ Page):
Rosa Bacile Head of Collection Services, The Wallace Collection, London. D.Phil. (2010), 'The "Dynastic Mausolea" of the Norman Period in the South of Italy, c. 1069-1189: A Study on the Form and Meaning of Burial Monuments in the Middle Ages'.
Umberto Bongianino Departmental Lecturer in Islamic Art and Architetcture, KRC, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. M.Phil. (2013); D.Phil. (2017), 'The origin and development of Maghribī scripts: Epigraphic and calligraphic traditions of the western Islamic lands'.
Ifigeneia Georgala D.Phil. student (2013– ), 'Early Islamic textiles in the Benaki Museum, Athens'.
Udayan Daniel Ghose M.St. in Oriental Studies (2017); Current D.Phil. student (2017– ) 'The Origins of Mughal Painting? An Enigmatic Indian Illustrated Khamsa of Nizāmī circa 1555'.
Laura Hinrichsen M.St. in Islamic Art and Archaeology (2016). D.Phil. student (2016– ) 'The Sack of Tunis in 1535: The Arts of the Book in Late Hafṣid Ifriqiya and the Reception of Arabic Manuscripts in Ealy Modern Europe'.
Lev Kapitaikin Lecturer in Byzantine and Islamic Arts, University of Tel Aviv. M.St. in Islamic Art and Archaeology (2002). D.Phil. (2011), 'The Twelfth-century Paintings of the Ceilings of the Cappella Palatina, Palermo'.
Péter Tamas Nagy M.St. in Islamic Art and Archaeology (2016). D.Phil. student (2016– ), “The History of Islamic Shāla in Rabāṭ (Morocco), and the Function of its Funerary Complex'.
Joseph O'Hara (with Michael Macdonald) D.Phil. student (2014– ), “The Arabic Dialect of the Rwala tribe, According to the Ethnographic Records of Alois Musil'.
Amanda Phillips Assistant Professor, Islamic and Ottoman Art and Material Culture, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia.M.St. in Islamic Art and Archaeology (2005). D.Phil. (2011) 'Weaving as Livelihood, Style as Status: Ottoman Velvets in a Social and Economic Context, 1600-1750'.
Tim Power Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology, Sheikh Zayed University, Abu Dhabi. M.St. in Islamic Art and Archaeology (2005). D.Phil. (2010), 'The Red Sea Basin during the "Long" Late Antiquity (AD 500-1000)'.
Recent and Forthcoming Publications
'Islamic archaeology at a difficult age', Antiquity, December 2010, 84/326, pp. 1187–1191.
'Le pitture del soffitto della Cappella Palatina' and 'Iscrizioni arabe nella Cappella Palatina', in Beat Brenk (ed.), La Cappella Palatina a Palermo, (Mirabilia Italiae 17), 4 vols, Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini Editore, 2010, vol. I, Atlante I, figs. 158–194, pp. 133–147, figs. 369–384, pp. 286–303, vol. II, Atlante II, figs. 473–1220, pp. 384–823, vol. III, Saggi, pp. 353–407, vol. IV, Schede, pp. 429–456, 487–510, 540–665.
'The tersāne at Alanya and the galleys of Charles d’Anjou’, in David J. Blackman and Maria Costanza Lentini (eds), Ricoveri per navi militari nei porti del Mediterraneo antico e medievale. Atti del Workshop:Ravello, 4-5 novembre 2005, Bari, 2010, pp. 185-8.
(with Vera von Falkenhausen), 'An Arabic-Greek charter for Archbishop Nicholas of Messina, November 1166', in Lisa Bénou and Cristina Rognoni (eds.), Χρόνος συνήγορος. Mélanges André Guillou = Νέα Ῥώμη. Rivista di ricerche bizantinistiche, 8 (2011) 153–170.
'The Bible, the Qur'ān and the Royal Eunuchs in the Cappella Palatina', in Thomas Dittelbach (ed.), Die Cappella Palatina in Palermo - Geschichte, Kunst, Funktionen. Forschungsergebnisse der Restaurierung Hg. im Auftrag der Stiftung Würth, Künzelsau: Swiridoff Verlag 2011, pp. 198–216 (German), pp. 413–23 (Italian), pp. 560–70 (English).
'A bronze pillar lampstand from Petralia Sottana, Sicily', in Venetia Porter and Mariam Rosser-Owen (eds), Metalwork and Material Culture in the Islamic World. Art, Craft and Text. Essays presented to James W. Allan, London, 2012, pp. 283–300.
(with E. Morero, H. Procopiou, R. Vargiolu, & H. Zahouani), 'Carving techniques of Fatimid rock crystal ewers (10-12th cent. A.D.)’, Wear 303–304 (2013) pp. 150–156.
'Alexander in the Cappella Palatina’, in L’officina dello sguardo.Studi in onore di Maria Andaloro, ed. Giulia Bordi, Iole Carlettini, Maria Luigia Fobelli, Maria Raffaella Menna & Paola Pogliani, 2 vols, Rome, 2014, vol. 1, pp. 69–76.
'Arabic Inscriptions in the Cappella Palatina: Performativity, Audience, Legibility and Illegibility’, in Antony Eastmond (ed.), Viewing inscriptions in the Late Antique and Medieval Mediterranean, Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 124–147.
'Muslim Artists and Christian Models in the Painted Ceilings of the Cappella Palatina’, in Rosa Bacile and John McNeill (eds), Romanesque and the Mediterranean: Patterns of Exchange across the Latin, Greek and Islamic Worlds c. 1000 - c. 1250, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2015, pp. 59–89.
'Muslim artists, Christian patrons and the painted ceilings of the Cappella Palatina (Palermo, Sicily, circa 1143 A.D.’, Hadeeth ad-Dar (Dār al-Athār al-Islamīya, Kuwait), 40 (2015) pp. 12–16.
(with Nadia Jamil) 'A new Latin-Arabic document from Norman Sicily (November 595H/1198CE)’, inMaurice Pomerantz and Aram Shahin (eds), The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning. Studies Presented to Wadad Kadi, Islamic Studies and Civilization, Leiden: Brill, 2015, pp. 111–166.
'Diversity by design’, Apollo: The International Art Magazine, June 2016, Volume CLXXXIII, No. 643, pp. 80–85.
'A Tale of Two Ceilings. The Cappella Palatina in Palermo and the Mouchroutas in Constantinople’, in Alison Ohta, J. Michael Rogers and Rosalind Wade Haddon (eds.), Art, Trade, and Culture in the Islamic World and Beyond: From the Fatimids to the Mongols. Studies presented to Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Gingko Library Art Series, London, 2016, pp. 58–73.
(with Vera von Falkenhausen and Nadia Jamil), 'The Twelfth-century documents of St. George’s of Tròccoli (Sicily)’, Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 16, 2016, 1–84b.
'The Palermo Qurʾān (AH373/982–83AD) and its Historical Context’, in Glaire Anderson, Corisande Fenwick and Mariam Rosser-Owen (eds.), The Aghlabids & Their Neighbors: Art & Material Culture in Ninth-Century North Africa, Handbook of Oriental Studies no. 122, Leiden and Boston: Brill, pp. 587–610.
(with Ruggero Longo), 'The First Norman Cathedral in Palermo: Robert Guiscard's Church of the Most Holy Mother of God', Convivium: Exchanges and Interactions in the Arts of Medieval Europe, Byzantium, and the Mediterreanean 5 (2018) pp. 16–35.
(with Elise Morero, Haris Procopiou, Roberto Vargiolu, Hassan Zahouani) 'The use of the digital microscope and multi-scale observation in the study of lapidary manufacturing techniques. A methodological approach for the preliminary phase of analysis in situ', in Rachel K. L. Wood and Kathryn Kelley (eds.), Digital Imaging of Artefacts: Developments in Methods and Aims, Oxford: Archaeopress. 2018, pp. 75–100
(with Nadia Jamil), 'The Swan Song of the Multilingual Chancery: Obbertus Fallamonacha's Latin-Arabic Charter of 1242', British Museum Research Publications, forthcoming, 2019.
'Quadrilingual inscription from the Church of S. Michele Arcangelo in Sicily', in Foteini Spingou (ed.), Visual Arts, Material Culture and Literature in Later Byzantium (1081 – ca. 1330), Texts on Byzantine Art and Aesthetics, vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming, 2018.