University of Durham| Department of Archaeology| Staff research interests



Dr. Derek Kennet

Lecturer in South Asian Archaeology 



Research interests

I am interested in the archaeology of the Western Indian Ocean (including South Asia, eastern Arabia, southern Iran and the Gulf ) in the Early Historic and Medieval periods, especially the economy and longue durée development of this region. This also touches on the archaeology of Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, the Sasanians, Roman trade and the archaeology of trade and economy generally.

I am interested in long-term patterns of change and the use of archaeological techniques to elucidate and explain these. In Ras al-Khaimah I am currently working on the interaction between different levels of the economy: inter-regional (Indian Ocean) trade, local trade, and agricultural production: -exploring these interactions using archaeological evidence. I am working towards a book on Hormuz and its hinterland in the world economy.

I am currently experimenting with a new taught course ' The Archaeology of the Global Economy' in which I (together with some unfortunate students) am exploring themes and theories in economic archaeology, long-term systemic change and process, patterns of economic interaction and interdependence, and world-systems theory. We also look at problems of eurocentrism in world history and the role that archaeology has to play in redressing the global inbalances of historical documentation.

I recognise the vital importance of pottery, both as a chronological tool and as a tool for understanding trade and exchange, and have therefore done a lot of work on pottery. I am working towards a better defined and better dated pottery sequence in the areas where I am currently working (central India, the Gulf, southern Iran).

I am an advisor to the Department of Antiquities and Museums of Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, on the organising committe of  the Seminar for Arabian Studies, and joint series editor (together with Dr St.John Simpson) of the Society for Arabian Studies Monograph Series.

Current projects

Fieldwork & Research

Paithan & Chandor
On behalf of the Society for South Asian Studies and in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India I am working on the publication of the Paithan (Maharashtra) and Chandor (Goa) excavations in in India conducted between 1996 and 2000. Both of these are Early Historic sites with well-preserved early Hindu brick temples. The application of new excavation and recording techniques has given new insights into the development of these buildings (see Kennet & Rao 2001 below).

I am currently writing up the 1995 - 2001 excavations at the site of Kush in Ras al-Khaimah (UAE). Kush is a tell with occupation dating from the 4th to the early 14th century AD with an excellent sequence of palaeobotanical material and trade ceramics. Kush, and its hinterland in Northern Ras al-Khaimah, is an excellent case study for the interaction of  inter-regional Indian Ocean trade and a local community and its economy (see Kennet PSAS 2002. Kennet 2003). This research is closely linked to the Williamson Collection work on the other side of the Gulf (see below & Priestman & Kennet 2002). The site also preseves the Sasanian - Early Islamic transition allowing us to investigate developments in southeastern Arabia at this time. The site has yielded an excellent environmental sequence.

Together with Dr. Alastair Northedge of the Sorbonne I am working on Samarra in Iraq. Production of the site atlas is now in its final stages (see Kennet 2001).

The Williamson Collection Project
This project involves making a catalogue and analysis of the collection of Iranian pottery made by A Williamson in the 1960's & early '70s together with Seth Priestman. The Williamson Collection is one of the best survey datasets from anywhere in the Near East or on the Indian Ocean littoral. Over 19,500 sherds have so far been catalogued from 800 sites. This work is in collaboration with the British Insitute for Persian Studies (see below & Priestman & Kennet 2002) .

Recent Publications

    Kennet, D. 1997. Kush: a Sasanian and Islamic-period archaeological tell in Ras al-Khaimah (U.A.E.). Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 8: 284-302 .
    Kennet, D.1998. Evidence for 4th/5th-century Sasanian occupation at Khatt, Ras al-Khaimah. In C.S. Phillips, D.T. Potts and S. Searight (eds.) Arabia and her Neighbours. Essays on prehistorical and historical developments presented in honour of Beatrice de Cardi: 105-116.
    Kennet, D. 1998. Review of J. Benton, 1996, Excavations at al-Sufouh: a third millennium site in the Emirate of Dubai. American Journal of Archaeology 102: 190-191.
    Kennet, D. 2000. Kush, a Sasanian and Islamic occupation sequence from the Gulf. Universities of Durham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Archaeological Reports 23: 103-108.
    Kennet, D., Rao, J.V.P. 2001. The Early Historic Brick Temple at Chandor (ancient Chandrapura) Goa. South Asian Studies 17: 97-107.
    Kennet, D. 2001. Review of D. K. Chakrabarti, 1999. India: An Archaeological History. OUP. South Asian Studies 17: 224-5.
    Kennet, D. 2001. The form of the military cantonments at Samarra, the organisation of the Abbasid army. In C. Robinson (ed.), A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra. Proceedings of the Samarra Symposium held at Oxford, May 1996. OUP: 157-182.
    Kennet, D. 2002. The development of Northern Ras al-Khaimah and the 14th-century Hormuzi economic boom in the lower Gulf. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 32. 151-164.
    Priestman, S., Kennet, D. 2002. The Williamson Collection Project : Sasanian and Islamic pottery from Southern Iran. Iran 40: 265-267.
    Kennet, D. 2002. Sasanian pottery in Southern Iran and Eastern Arabia. Iran 40: 153-162.
    Kennet, D. 2003. Julfar and the urbanisation of southeast Arabia. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 14: 103-125.
    Ishida, S., Parker, A.G., Kennet, D. Hodson, M.J. 2003. Phytolith analysis from the archaeological site of Kush, Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates. Quaternary Research 59: 310-321.
    Kennet, D., Rao, J.V.P. 2003. Two Early Historic Brick Temples at Paithan in Maharashtra. South Asian Studies 19: 113-123.
    Fredslund Andersen, S. & Kennet, D. 2003. Sasanian and Islamic pottery. In H. Hellmuth Andersen & Flemming Højland (eds).  The Barbar Temples. Volume 1. Jutland Archaeological Society Publications: 307-310.
    Kennet, D. 2004. Sasanian and Islamic pottery from Ras al-Khaimah :classification, chronology and analysis of trade in the Western Indian Ocean. Society for Arabian Studies Monographs No. 1. BAR International Series 1248.
    Kennet, D. 2004. The transition from Early Historic to Early Medieval in the Vakataka realm. In H. Bakker (ed.). The Vakataka Heritage: Indian Culture at the Crossroads. Groningen 2002: 11-17.
    Kennet, D. 2005. On the eve of Islam: archaeological evidence from Eastern Arabia. Antiquity 79/ 303:107-118.
    Parker, A.G., Goudie, A.S., Stokes, S., White, K., Hodson, M.J., Manning, M., Kennet, D. 2006. A Record of Holocene climate change from lake geochemical analyses in southeastern Arabia. Quaternary Research 66: 465-476.
    Kennet, D. 2007. The Decline of Eastern Arabia in the Sasanian period. Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy 18/1: 86-122.

Forthcoming Publications

    S.M.N. Priestman, C.A. Petrie and D. Kennet. Glazed Islamic pottery. In R. Coningham. Excavations at Charsada. Submitted May 2004.
    Kennet, D. The Dating of Red Polished ware. South Asian Studies.
    Kennet, D. et al. Excavations at Kush a Sasanian and Islamic tell in Ras al-Khaimah (UAE). Indicopleustoi: Archaeologies of the Indian Ocean. Brepols.
    Kennet, D., Rao, J.V.P. Paithan Excavations. Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India.
    Kennet. D. & Luft, P. (eds). Current Research in Sasanian Archaeology, Art & History. British Archaeological Reports.

PhD topics I would like to supervise:

Early Historic Pottery and Chronology from India/South Asia

This study would produce a synthetic overview of Early Historic pottery bringing together published assemblages from Early Historic sites in India and Pakistan, together with study of museum collections, to establish a more reliable and better-defined type and ware series and chronology. Such a study is badly needed at the present time. Without this, it is difficult to see how progress can be made in Early Historic archaeology.

Early Historic/Early Medieval Urbanism in South Asia/India

The aim of this study would be to take a holistic overview of a number of large, excavated Early Historic sites with the aim of sorting out the long term history of urban centres in India. All of the archaeological work done on these to date has involved ‘key-hole’ excavation that has lead to a distorted view of urban development. This PhD would involve visiting a number of sites as well as some regional survey work as well as use of satellite images and GPS to locate and to record finds.

Trade in the Western Indian Ocean in the Early Historic to Medieval Period

This PhD would involve a synthetic overview of archaeological and historical evidence for trade in the western Indian Ocean from about the 3rd c BC to the early medieval period. Using especially data from excavated sites in Arabia and Iran as well as India it would aim to review accepted interpretations of the nature of trade in this region and its development through time. Some field work and artefactual study will be involved.

The Development of the Julfar ware pottery industry 12th – 20th century AD

Julfar ware was manufactured in Ras al-Khaimah (UAE) from the 12th to the 20th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries it became a widely traded ceramic that has turned up on sites in Iran, Eastern Arabia from Kuwait to Oman, Yemen and East Africa. At least three major kiln sites are known in Ras al-Khaimah where there is also a lot of  material. The industry is an excellent case study in production and distribution through a crucial period in the development of the Indian Ocean economy to modern times. Limited excavation of kiln sites together with detailed study of the ceramics themselves will be used to write an overview of this industry.

Contact details

Telephone: (+44) (0)191 334 1138
Fax: (+44) (0)191 334 1101

Department of Archaeology
University of Durham
South Road

University of Durham| Department of Archaeology| Staff research interests

Created: 28 September 1998. Last updated: 14-11-07.
Information supplied by: Derek Kennet
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