Abstract Dr. Lucian Reinfandt
“ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURES, CONCEPTS, APPROACHES, AND COMPARISONS”
Nov. 27-29, 2014, Universität Hamburg
The Administrative Structures in Egypt and Samarra, based on Papyrology
The administrative practice under the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates is exceptionally well documented in the case of Egypt by the plenty of papyri preserved. Their provenience from district towns and even villages makes them an enrichment, if not corrective, to the likewise abundant literary sources. Whereas the latter tend to reflect the perspective of high level administration in provincial centers such as Alexandria or al-Fustat, the papyri render information about procedures on middle and lower levels and in more peripheral parts of the province, especially when completed by the contemporaneous administrative papyri written in Greek and Coptic. It is difficult though to assess to what extent the Egyptian evidence is applicable to other, less well documented provinces of the Caliphate, because very few administrative papyri from the Islamic era have been found outside Egypt so far. A handful of Arabic papyri excavated in Samarra is of significant relevance for this purpose, for it is the only comparable material from Mesopotamia and comes, in addition to that, from a caliphal palatial context. The Samarra papyri, in this context, become an important counter evidence for the Egyptian documentation. Seemingly dating from the later part of the 3rd/9th century they reflect administrative practice in an era of imperial dissolution and a rising regionalism. My paper aims to show how the documentary evidence on perishable materials, restricted as it is, contributes to an understanding of empire building processes such as the control of territories and the extraction of the societal surplus of labor and produce.