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The Caliph’s Prey: Hunting and the Landscape in Umayyad Visual Culture

Alexander Brey, Bryn Mawr College, Junior Fellow 2016–2017

My project focuses on images of hunting that adorned the walls of rural estates in the territory of the Umayyad caliphate (661–750 CE). I argue that these images and the built landscapes in which they were situated reveal shifts of attitude toward visual culture and the landscape in the wake of the Muslim conquests in the seventh and early eighth centuries. At its height, the Umayyad caliphate extended from Spain in the west to Tajikistan in the east. Images, craftsmen, patrons, ideas about the landscape, and animals circulated along pathways of trade and transportation that were reshaped by the conquests. My research focused on early medieval sources in Arabic, Syriac, and Greek that provide insights into how the landscape was perceived and shaped. I also relied heavily on historical and archaeological publications that reveal how elite hunting culture manifested in practice, visual depictions, and the built landscape.