Dr José C. Carvajal López

Lecturer in Historical Archaeology

Licenciatura, PhD (Granada, Spain)

Tel: 0116 229 7114
Email: jccl2@le.ac.uk

Dr Jose C. Carvajal Lopez

Personal details

My main research interests are the archaeological study of Islamic societies, particularly of Islamization, and the application of ceramics analysis to historical archaeology.

I did my undergraduate and PhD in the University of Granada (Spain), where I developed archaeological research in the early Islamic period of the area of Granada (8th to 11th centuries CE) and specialized in the knowledge of the ceramics from this period. Between 2009 and 2012 I was part of the Department of Archaeology of the University of Sheffield (UK), where I enjoyed a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship and learnt how to apply archaeological science to the study of the Islamic ceramics of the Vega of Granada. In 2013 I became a Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology in UCL Qatar, where I expanded my interests in research and teaching to the societies of the Persian-Arabian Gulf, and particularly of Qatar, but also developed projects in other Islamic countries.

Since 2018 I am a Lecturer of Historical Archaeology at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History.


I teach a range of subjects related to Historical Archaeology, particularly in Islamic societies, and ceramics analysis.


My main research interest is the study of Islamization as a cultural and social change. The term ‘Islamization’ is usually defined as a change of religion, but it also encompasses a large change in terms of society and culture triggered by the intense connectivities that Islamic communities develop between themselves within the particular circumstances of each historical context. My work will be soon published in two monographs, one of them presenting a theoretical framework for Islamization, and the other one applying it to the current state of the art of the archaeological research on the area of Granada that I already studied in my PhD dissertation.

During my career, I have gained some years of experience in Medieval and Postmedieval archaeology in Granada (Spain) and also collaborated in projects in other areas of the world: Butrint (Albania) in the Roman, Medieval and Venetian-Ottoman periods; Bethlehem (Palestine) and Assilah (Morocco) in the late Roman-Islamic transition; Yasin Tepe (Iraki Kurdistan) in the Islamic period; Lymira (Turkey) and Athens (Greece) in the early Medieval period; and Mytilene (Greece) in the Ottoman period.

My most recent and current ongoing research engagements are:

The Crowded Desert Project: The Archaeology of the Bedouin and the Sedentary People in Qatar

This project which I direct is generously funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of the Qatar Foundation), hosted by UCL Qatar and developed in collaboration with Qatar Museums. The project, started in 2015, emerged from the need to understand the connection between historical landscapes of the NW coast of the Qatari peninsula and the life and nomads and sedentary people that have inhabited it. The area chosen for research is close to important archaeological sites of the early Islamic period (Murwab, Yoghbi) and to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Zubarah, but it is at the same time a space where abundant Bedouin (i.e. nomadic) groups are well documented by ethnographic and archaeological sources. The Crowded Desert Project combines a program of archaeological survey of different ranges of intensity with strategic excavations, aerial photography and geoarchaeology in a GIS platform that supports the development of new narratives about the history of the Persian-Arabian Gulf.

More information on this project.

The Transformation of the Moroccan Landscape in the Early Islamic Period

Directed by Dr Gaetano Palumbo (UCL Qatar) and funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of the Qatar Foundation), this project is developed in collaboration with the Institut National des Sciences de l’Archaéologie et du Patrimoine (Morocco). The project started in 2016 and encompasses survey and strategic excavations that will contribute to the elaboration of an archaeological chart for the region of Assilah (NW Morocco), with a particular focus on the remains from the late Roman and early Islamic periods. The documentation from these periods will feed interpretations of the historical process of Islamization of Morocco.

More information on this project.

Materiality and Preservation in Islamic Contexts

Between 2015 and 2017 I directed this project as a member of UCL Qatar. The project also had the participation of Dr Trinidad Rico (Rutgers University, USA), Dr Stavroula Golfomitsou (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and Dr Remah Gharib (Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Qatar). Funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (a member of the Qatar Foundation), the project intended to analyse the ways on which practices of heritage research, valorisation and preservation are perceived by the local Islamic groups of the public in Qatar and in nearby Islamic countries. Results showed that there is a gap between the understanding of heritage issues by specialists, heavily influenced by the connection between authenticity and materiality developed by Western scholars and professionals, and between the local public, where the values of heritage are clearly related to their perceived connection with religious and national/local identity. A summary of the research done in this project can be read in the open access book Heritage Preservation in Islamic Contexts.

More information about this project.

The excavation of Khirbet Beit Bassa (Bethlehem, Palestine)

This project, directed by Dr Ibrahim Abu A’mar (Al-Quds University, Palestine), studies the antique and Islamic site of Khirbet Beit Bassa, located only three kilometres away from the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine. The project started in 2009 and is still ongoing.

The excavation of Yasin Tepe (Slemani, Iraqi Kurdistan)

This project started in 2015, in collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities of Slemani, and it aims to study the Islamic site of Yasin Tepe, which is currently thought to be the lost city of Shahrizor (10th century CE).

The study of ceramics of the city of Doha, Qatar

This project started in 2017 and is coordinated by Dr Myrto Georgakopoulou (UCL Qatar) and myself. It counts with the participation of Professor Robert Carter (UCL Qatar), Ms Marcella Giobbe and Ms Elizabeth Adeyemo and with the collaboration of Qatar Museums. This project analyses Gulf ceramics retrieved in archaeological excavations in Doha and aims to characterise their technology of manufacture and their provenance.

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