Stephane Pradines


Telephone: 44 207 3803866


2001- Ph.D. in Islamic Archaeology, Sorbonne University, Paris IV
“Swahili Fortifications and Urbanisation” (Director Late Prf. Marianne Barrucand)
1995 - M.Phil in African History, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris I
1995 - International Certificate in African Archaeology, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
1994 - MA Arts and African Archaeology, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris I
MA title: “Mosques in East Africa”
1993 - BA Arts and Archaeology, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris I


1998: Sewan Shariff, Pakistan (2 months)
1993: Tell Arqa, Lebanon (2 months)
1992: Khirbet el Umbashi, Syria (2 months)
1989-1999: Excavations in France and UK on Medieval sites; Roman and Celtic sites; Neolithic and Paleolithic sites

Current areas of teaching

• Art & Architecture of Muslim Cultures
• Muslim Architecture in Cairo
• Defending Muslim Empires: Castles and Citadels
• Muslim Cultures of the Indian Ocean
• Muslim Arts in the Contemporary Period
• Muslim Archaeology
• Archaeology in Africa
• Swahili Coast
• Indian Ocean Trade
• Urban Archaeology in Muslim Context
• Maritime Trade and Ceramics
• Muslim Cultures of the Indian Ocean
• Muslim Fortifications and Military Architecture
• Muslim Arms and Armor in Africa
• Engineering and Technology of Warfare
• Art & Architecture of Cairo, a Muslim Metropolis (Core Course)
• Muslim Arts and Architecture in the Contemporary Period

Research interests

From 1998 to 2018, Dr. Stephane Pradines raised over 1 million dollars for research and fieldwork. Dr. Pradines works on two main themes: Muslim warfare in Egypt and East Africa & Trade and Muslim Cultures of the Indian Ocean.

2018. International Conference Muslim Cultures in the Indian Ocean:

Organisers: Stephane Pradines and Farouk Topan (AKU-ISMC).

Outline: Over the past couple of decades, significant new research has been undertaken across East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent leading to fresh insights on a number of facets of Indian Ocean cultures. Our objective is to study these multiple facets through the prism of one religion, Islam. How did one religion manage to unite different people from different areas with different cultures? I am organizing a conference to provide a platform for sharing the recent learnings on Indian Ocean cultures in Muslim context and mark the coming of age of a reconnaissance of Muslim cultures as a vital area of study, through the publication of select proceedings of the conference. The conference will be held over 4 days in September 2018 in the new building of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in Kings Cross (12-14 September). We confirmed 30 participants comprising of specialists as well as young scholars emerging in the field of Muslim Indian Ocean cultures.

2018. Kua, An Ancient Swahili Town, Mafia Island, Tanzania:

Co-Directors: Pierre Blanchard (WMF) and Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC)

Partner institutions: Aga Khan University (AKU); Tanzanian Antiquities; World Monument Fund (WMF).

Outline: My new project is located in the Mafia Island region at the mouth of the Rufiji, the main River in Tanzania. Located off the coast of Tanzania on the island of Juani, which is part of the Mafia archipelago, the town of Kua is one of the largest medieval Swahili sites in East Africa, and probably the least studied. The site was never excavated and only a few houses and mosques were recorded and published by Peter Garlake in 1966 (p. 164, 165, 168 and 198). The only map that we have on the site was drawn up by Pierre Blanchard a few years ago. The proposed scope of activities is as follows: survey and mapping the site. Creating an accurate map of the site and structures is a first step in any conservation program and a basic management tool for archaeological excavations. With our two field schools (archaeology & conservation), this project is a perfect strategic support for the AKU in East Africa, in term of research, education, heritage and tourism development. The partnership with Tanzanian institutions such as the Antiquities and Dar es-Salaam University will fully support the development of the new AKU campus in Arusha and also the engagement of the AKDN in Mombasa. ISMC-AKU is working in partnership with the World Monument Fund (WMF), The Tanzanian Antiquities and the Dar es-Salaam University. The project will be managed as a partnership with equal responsibilities and shared logistics between the two project managers Stephane Pradines and Pierre Blanchard.

2017-on going. The Coral Mosques of Maldives.

Director: Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC).

Partner institutions: UNESCO, Van Berchem Foundation, Maldivian Heritage Department.

Outline: Our objectives are twofold, first archaeological and scientific, but also for documentation and conservation purposes to serve the needs of the Maldivian government and international organizations such as UNESCO. First we documented an important Maldivian site, Meedhoo (Fandiyaaru), located in the southern atoll. It is a major archaeological site in the Maldives and is very well known for its tombs and mosques. This site is not yet listed in the proposal for the UNESCO World Heritage List. We implemented a map previously created in Fenfushi and we carried out some test pits to provide some dates for these buildings that were never dated scientifically and to see if some structures pre-date the mosques and Muslim tombs. In Meedhoo Island, we prepared the first plan of the Fandiyaaru compound. Our major discovery was to contradict the stated fact that the site was built on a previous Buddhist site. We didn’t find any evidence of this. Despite the indisputable Buddhist occupation on the island, our excavations revealed that the Islamic sites (mosques and cemeteries) were not built on previous pre-Islamic buildings. In Fenfushi Island, we implemented the map previously created. This implementation was a major advance because we added another old mosque and a further modern mosque, including another cemetery. This plan will be extremely important in the future as it considerably enlarges the zone that needs to be protected. During our excavation of the old mosque, we discovered an old platform of a previous mosque built in sand stone, and not in coral. We dated this mosque from the 12th century. Our test pits confirm that there were no pre-Islamic settlements or structure under the old mosque of Fenfushi. We reinterpreted the so-called “old bathing tank”. We found absolutely no evidence to support the interpretation that it was a pre-Islamic Buddhist bathing tank. Our investigations suggest that the bathing tank was in fact a water tank built by the sultan for the local community. Our two excavations to the north and south of the Maldivian atolls bring very important information. The Maldivian mosques were not built on Buddhists temples. At least this is the case for the two major sites that we investigated. My Research report is in progress, and will be submitted in 2018.

2012-on going. Virtual Fatimid Cairo.

Project Manager: Zehra Lalji.

Academic & Scientific advisor: Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC).

Partner institutions: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) & the Aga Khan University-Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC).

Outline: For the last few years, I have been working with the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) on a project called ‘Virtual Fatimid Cairo’. I am the scientific advisor on the project and I offered my support to provide historical, geographical and archaeological information on the Fatimid city. We are creating a 3D computer model of Fatimid Cairo from the time of Nasir Khusraw (1004-1088 CE) to the end of the Fatimid Caliphate (1171 CE). We requested the help of two architects from the Time & Knowledge Aga Khan Volunteers (TKN), Faisal Ali and Zahid Alibhai, to work with us. Our main objective is to produce a 3D model that we will use for different purposes, mainly for education, schools and Museums.

2017-on going: Black Death Project: Rewriting Plague’s Second Pandemic.

Director: Hendrik Poinar, Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University, Ontario.

Research participant (for Egypt): Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC).

Outline: One of the main projects in my post-excavation is the collaboration with Professor Hendrik Poinar on the plague epidemic in Medieval Egypt. From 2001 to 2009, on the site of Darrasa, my team and I excavated a Mamluk cemetery. It’s the largest Mamluk cemetery excavated so far and the only cemetery excavated in historic Cairo. During our excavations we uncovered a large number of mass graves, indicating that groups of people have been buried in the same pit very quickly. These graves are often associated with lime and black deposits that can be the remains of oil “naphatun” used to burn the infected bodies. These archaeological discoveries connected to historical sources such as Ibn Iyas and Makrizi allow us to think that these graves are the evidence of the great plague epidemic during the 14th and 15th century in Egypt. Historical plagues have become a dynamic focus for new cross-disciplinary research. Eurocentric narratives of contagion no longer fit to explain the complexity of zoonotic diseases such as plague; we propose to replace the contagion model by a more dynamic ecological model that places emphasis on the interaction of the pathogen with social, environmental and climatic factors. To this end, we have gathered a multi-disciplinary research team with expertise in archaeology, anthropology, history and climatology. In order to challenge the predominant claims on the long history of plague’s Second Pandemic (the Black Death and its recurrent waves, from ca.1340s to ca.1840s), four regions fit our needs namely: (1) Western Alps; (2) Anatolia and the Balkans; (3) Egypt; and (4) Cyprus. The data collected from these locations will help clarify where plague reservoirs of the Mediterranean world were located, what mechanisms drove the persistence of plague in those reservoirs, and how they were connected to urban outbreaks. This is the first comprehensive research project that shifts the focus from Europe to the Muslim world during the Second Pandemic.

2000-2016: The Medieval Walls of Cairo, Egypt.

Director: Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC).

Partner institutions: French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO); Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities (SCA); Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

Outline: Since 2000, the French Institute of Archaeology (IFAO) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) launched a program of study, excavation and conservation of the medieval walls of Cairo. Our excavations started first on the site of Darrasa and were directly linked to the al-Azhar park project, later (2004) we extended our project to other sites, Bab al-Tawfiq (2004-05), Burg al-Zafar (2007-2016), Bab al-Nasr (2012-2015) and al Mashtal (2016). We focused first on the Ayyubid wall built by Saladin in 1169-1177 AD. We then extended our excavations to the newly discovered Fatimid walls from Badr al-Jamali (1087-1091 AD.) and Jawhar al-Siqqili (969-971 AD.). I was the first archaeologist to find these two Fatimid walls and to follow them on the eastern and northern sides of the city. These walls, made of mud bricks and rammed earth, are unique and demonstrate that the Fatimid city was much larger than was previously thought and described by historians. My excavations were also the first large scale excavations done in Fatimid Cairo, all the other major excavations were conducted previously in Fustat (and Istabl Antar). Our excavations were not limited to the study of the fortifications and were a great field of investigation for the knowledge of medieval Cairo and allowed us to observe the interaction between the city and the fortifications of Cairo, from the Fatimid era to the Ottoman period. Our studies focused on the city and the study of the material culture from the 10th to 16th centuries. We focused particularly on the following topics: domestic architecture, hydraulic systems, cemeteries and funerary anthropology, epigraphy, numismatics, ceramics, wood and textiles, glass and production areas and metalwork. Three book volumes are planned: The Fatimid Walls (vol 1), The Ayyubid Walls (vol. 2) and Excavations in the Mamluk City (vol. 3). Several famous scholars are associated with this project such as Professor Johannes van den Heijer (Catholic University of Louvain) who is doing the study of the Fatimid inscriptions; Professor Frederic Bauden (Liège University) who is doing the study of the Mamluk coins and Mamluk funerary inscriptions found on my excavations and Dr. Tanja Tolar Senior Teaching Fellow SOAS for the glass material study.

2012-2015: Warfare & Cultures in the Medieval Middle East.

Co-Directors: Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC), Mathieu Eychenne (IFPO), and Abbes Zouache (CNRS).

Partner institutions: French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO); French Institute in Near East, Beirut-Damascus (IFPO).

Outline: From the Fatimid conquest to the fall of the Mamluk Empire, militarised political power imposes a military aristocracy at the head of society, legitimised by the battles against the Crusaders and the Mongols. Cultures of war spread throughout all societies. This International and multidisciplinary program (history, archaeology and anthropology) aimed to identify and to analyses the cultures of war, to understand how the war model deeply influenced the Muslim societies. Several seminars and sub-research programs were organized around this theme. I was in charge of the program “Forts and Ports” and I organized an international panel in Istanbul around the theme “Fortified Cities and Fortified Harbors”. I edited a collective volume around this panel with ten contributions and the manuscript was given and accepted for publication in October 2017 by the French Institute in Cairo.

2011-2015: Excavations Dembeni, Mayotte (Comoros Archipelago):

Director: Stephane Pradines (AKU-ISMC).

Partner institutions: Direction of Cultural Affairs in Indian Ocean, Reunion (DRAC); General Council and Prefecture, Mayotte (CG); CNRS - UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, Islam Médiéval, Paris.

Outline: The trade with the Abbasids and the Fatimids pushed people to live together in port-cities and influenced the urbanisation of the east African coast. Dembeni is one of the largest and richest archaeological sites in all east Africa. Its apogee in the 9th - 12th centuries was a period of intensive trade, first with the Abbasids in the Persian Gulf then with the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Dembeni delivered an archaeological material of unprecedented wealth for the time, with a large amount of Chinese and Persian ceramics, as well as glassware from all over the Islamic world. In 2013, with my team, we discovered that the accumulation of wealth on the site was not made by chance but it was the rock crystal trade that provided huge financial income to the inhabitants of Dembeni. From Malagasy origin, the rock crystal was exported to Mayotte. Arriving in Mayotte, the Muslim traders exchanged ceramics, fabrics, beads and glass for the precious rock crystal, but only the best parts were stored for export and for ‘the great journey’. Dembeni appears as a major distribution center for rock crystal in the Indian Ocean. The life and wealth of the site was connected to the international trade of the rock crystal trade with the Abbasid and Fatimid dynasties (9th to 12th C.) Our excavation is part of the CNRS’s programme “Atlas ports et itinéraires maritimes de l’Islam medieval”.

2008-2011: War & Peace in the Medieval Middle East

Co-Directors: Stephane Pradines and Abbes Zouache (CNRS).

Partner institutions: French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO); French Institute in Near East, Beirut-Damascus (IFPO).

Outline: This International and multidisciplinary program (history, archaeology and anthropology) aimed to create a new discipline amongst the historians and archaeologists working on the Medieval Middle East: a social history of war. Our project ended with two major conferences: the first conference was organized in Damascus in 2010 and the second conference was organized in Cairo in 2011. The first volume, around historiography of war and the discipline, was published in 2015: Guerre dans le Proche-Orient médieval; and the second volume, around recent case studies Guerre et paix dans le Proche-Orient médiéval, xe-xve siècles, is expected to be published in May 2018. During these four years, I was also in charge of a sub-program called “Fortifications of Medieval Egypt” and I’m preparing a book around this topic.

2004-2006: Excavations Songo Mnara & Sanje ya Kati (Kilwa), Tanzania

Co-Directors: Stephane Pradines and Pierre Blanchard (WMF).

Partner institutions: French Embassy, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEE), Tanzanian Antiquities; UNESCO; British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA).

Outline: My research concerned the relationship between trade and Islam in the Indian Ocean: especially on the Swahili Coast. I focused particularly on the beginnings of the Muslim connections with East Africa and how trade propagated Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. This point is crucial to understanding the beginning of the Swahili Culture. Our project was linked to a conservation project and a regional development project lead by UNESCO and the French Embassy. Our team was composed of heritage architects in charge of the conservation of the sites of Kilwa Kisiwani, Songo Manara and Sanje ya Kati. I was in charge of the archaeological excavations in Songo Mnara and Sanje ya Kati. We created a references map of the sites and found precious information that helped us understand local and internal trade in the region. Our project was also developed as a field school in archaeology and conservation.

1999-2003. Excavations Gedi, Kenya:

Director: Stephane Pradines.

Partner institutions: French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAEE), National Museums of Kenya; British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA), CNRS - UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, Islam Médiéval, Paris.

Outline: Originally this project was connected to my Ph.D. research on the Swahili town walls and urbanization. Gedi is an iconic Swahili city with two town walls from different periods (15th and 16th c.), but during our excavations I identified a new great mosque built outside the town walls, which was the center of the old medieval city (11th-14th c.) but totally ignored by the previous archaeologists. It was the beginning of a new project supported by “La Commission des Fouilles” from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We worked on a new plan of the site and the study of the Swahili urbanism from the foundation of the city to the arrival of the Europeans in the Indian Ocean.


2017: UNESCO International expert on the coral stone mosques with a purpose of adding these monuments to the World Heritage List.
2017: UNESCO/UCL international expert workshop on the serial nomination of the Maritime Silk Routes Heritage (London).
2016 - to date: Member of the Academic Council of the History of Fortification Study Centre, Moscow.
2015 - to date: Member of the Editorial Board, "Islamic Archaeological Studies", Journal of the Islamic Art Museum, Cairo.
2014 - to date: Book review editor and member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Islamic Archaeology (Equinox) (
2014 - to date: Member of the Editorial Board of the Mélanges de l’Institut Dominicain (MIDEO), Cairo.
2008 - 2012: Archaeologist at the IFAO, French Institute of Archaeology, Cairo Expat. Contract.
2008 - 2011: Member of Steering Committee of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale
2007 - 2008: Member of Scientific Committee of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale
2005 - 2007: Archaeologist at the IFAO, French Institute of Archaeology, Cairo Local Contract.
2005 - 2003: UNESCO expert for Kilwa Project.
2005 - 2001: Scientific Member at the IFAO, French Institute of Archaeology, Cairo 4 years Post-doc.
2001 - to date: Associate Researcher, CNRS - UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, Islam Médiéval, Paris (APIM program, Atlas of Medieval ports).
2001 - to date: Associate Researcher, Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO), Cairo.
1998 - 2000: Admin and Scientific Assistant, Société des Africanistes, Musée de l’Homme, Paris.
1998: Member of Steering Committee of the Société des Africanistes .
1997 - 1998: Webmaster & Manager of the database of the collections, Department of Subsaharan Africa, Laboratoire d’Ethnologie, Musée de l’Homme, Paris.
1996 - 1997: National Service, Webmaster and Assistant for the collections, Photothèque du Musée de l’Homme, Paris.

Project Director Experience:

• Egypt and the Middle-East

2000 - 2016: Director of Excavations of the Walls of Cairo, Egypt.

• Indian Ocean and Sub-Saharan Africa

2018 - on-going: Co-Director with Pierre Blanchard (Wmf), Kua (Mafia Island), Tanzania.
2017 - on-going: Director of Excavations in Fenfushi and Hulumeedhoo mosques, Maldives.
2011 - 2015: Director of Excavations in Dembéni, Mayotte, French Comoros.
2009: Surveys in Mayotte, French Comoros.
2008: Co-Director with F.-X. Fauvelle and B. Hirsch of the excavations in Nora, Ethiopia.
2004 - 2006: Director of Excavations of Kilwa, Tanzania.
1999 - 2003: Director of Excavations of Gedi, Kenya.
1998: Surveys in Northern Kenya and Lamu archipelago.
1993: Surveys of the Megaliths in the districts of Fatick and Kaymor, Senegal.

Awards and honours

2016: Professional Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional Education, University College London (IOE)
2016: Egyptian Award “Gratitude and Appreciation to the Honourable Professor Stephane Pradines for his collaboration with the Archaeology department, Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University Cairo”
2007-2016: Founder of the first field school of Islamic archaeology in Egypt in partnership with Cairo University, Ain Shams University and the Ministry of Egyptian Antiquities. It was the biggest field school in the discipline created in the Middle East, with nearly 100 trainees in 10 years.
2006: Prix Clio (prestigious award for French archaeologists)
1998: Lauréat aux Prêts d'honneur aux Jeunes (Fondation de France)

Created on:04/26/2016 Last modified:04/16/2018