Militarization to Nomadization: The Middle and Late Islamic Periods


"Ayyubid," "Mamluk," and "Ottoman" are the often only vaguely familiar political designations of the Middle and Late Islamic periods of Palestine. Together spanning over seven centuries, their rule of the region began under the leadership of the politically and militarily gifted Salah al-Din (d. 1193), who established the Ayyubid Dynasty, unifying the Muslim Levant and dealing with the Frankish states that had been founded by the Crusaders. Nearly a century later, a bloodless military coup brought the Mamluk Sultanate into being with its fascinating institution of importing slaves who were enculturated, educated, and trained in the military arts. The Sultanate was a novelty, representing the first time Mamluks succeeded in creating their own state. Incorporating Palestine into their Cairo-based empire, the Mamluk empire became what was then the longest living, autonomous Islamic state in Egypt, surpassed only by its successor, the Ottoman Sultanate. The Ottomans, who, like the Mamluks, were a military dynasty, swept through Palestine in 1516. In the first hundred years of their governance, some of Palestine's larger towns received Ottoman patronage. Suleiman the Magnificent stands out for the attention he showered on Jerusalem, beautifying the Dome of the Rock and repairing the town's walls and gates. Soon, however, the Ottomans lost interest in a region so distant from their capitol in Anatolia. Investment gave way to neglect, and for two centuries there was little governance emanating from the central administration. Tribal sheiks rose in the vacuum, and local autonomy characterized a fairly splintered region. Ottoman resurgence in the nineteenth century imposed a stronger, more involved government and ambitious projects with international scope: the Suez Canal (1869) and the Hijaz Railway (finished in 1908), whetting the interest of European powers. Britain terminated Ottoman rule at the conclusion of the first World War.



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Near Eastern Archaeology