Ertegun Staff and Scholar Profiles

Péter Nagy

Mst in Islamic Art and Archaeology | 2016 Graduate

As Islamic art historian and archaeologist, I am particularly interested in the material culture of the medieval Islamic Mediterranean. That is to say, my main goal is to resuscitate medieval sites that are otherwise silent today, explain their raisons d’être, what they reveal about activities that once took place in them, and how people experienced and understood the architectural ensemble. This is indeed on what my main research strand in the funerary architecture of the Western Mediterranean focuses.

I first studied Arabic in Egypt and Syria, and later earned my BA degree in Arabic Studies from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, in 2012. During those years, I took a specialisation in Islamic art as my interest tended to focus on material culture, especially architecture, of the Islamic world. I often supplemented my classroom studies with self-organised study trips to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Morocco, etc. After a gap year spent in Morocco and England, I began my first MA in Islamic Studies at my alma mater, and completed another 1-year MA in Medieval Studies at Central European University, Budapest, graduating from both universities in 2015.

Then, thanks to the Ertegun Graduate Scholarsip, I was able to continue my studies in the Khalili Research Centre, Oxford, and earn an MSt degree in Islamic art and archaeology in 2016. Being an Ertegun scholar complemented immensely to all the benefits of studying here. I worked in Ertegun House on a daily basis, which was beneficial not only academically but also personally. To mention but one instance: once when I  had to make sense of some particularly difficult bits of Arabic poetry for my research, a colleague in the House was willing to read them with me in the middle of the night with a friendly smile on his face. The House, as always, provided a splendid and comfortable working place – no wonder why we, Ertegun scholars, all loved it. Yet the greatest gift that I received from the Ertegun Programme was the chance to organise a one-day conference in April 2016, titled Shāla and the Marinid dynasty: A colloquium in Moroccan history and archaeology.

In the long run, probably the most significant result of this year was that I could continue my research project on the DPhil level in Oxford, in which I study the funerary architecture in the medieval western Mediterranean, with special attention to Shāla (Chella) in Rabat, Morocco. The medieval town of Shāla, built over the Roman garrison city of Sala Colonia, is situated in on the outskirts of Rabat besides the splendid landscape of the Bu Regreg River. It is particularly famous for containing the funerary complex where, between 1258 and 1351, the Marinid sovereigns were interred alongside some of their relatives and dignitaries. The rulers’ munificent patronage of this site created what is arguably one of the most important monuments of Morocco from the period. The royal shrine was meant to maintain the deceased rulers’ memory and, in that manner, to establish and enhance the legitimacy of the dynasty. My research focuses on the history of Shāla with special attention to the Marīnid period, as well as on other royal funerary monuments around the Western Mediterranean, which are arguably all related to the pioneering Marīnid site.

Apart from my DPhil, I conduct research on Islamic artefacts in medieval Europe, and am particularly keen to study the little-understood pseudo-Arabic coinage in 12th-century Hungary. I also have an interest in 3D documentation in archaeology, cultural heritage protection and presentation, the history of Orientalism, and 19th-century explorers of the Islamic world. Finally, as much as other obligations allow me, I participate in excavations and archaeological surveys of other, far greater, scholars.