Stephane Pradines

Associate Professor

Telephone: 44 207 3803866


2001 - PhD in Islamic archaeology, Sorbonne University, Paris IV
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
1993 - BA Arts and Archaeology, Panthéon-Sorbonne University, Paris I

Current areas of teaching

Dr Pradines has taught the following courses:

Art & Architecture of Muslim Cultures
Muslim cultures of the Indian Ocean
Muslim Architectures in Cairo, from Madina to Metropolis
Defending Muslim Empires: Castles and Citadels
Muslim Arts and Architecture in the Contemporary Period

Research interests

Islamic Art, architecture and Archaeology
Archaeology of Sub-Saharan Africa
Islamization of the Swahili coast
Indian Ocean trade
Urban Archaeology in Cairo
Muslim Fortifications
Muslim Arms and armours in sub-Saharan Africa


Dr Pradines completed his PhD in Islamic Archaeology from Sorbonne University, Paris IV in 2001. Dr Pradines, Associate Professor, is an archaeologist specialising in the Middle East and East Africa. Prior to joining AKU-ISMC in 2012, Dr Pradines was in charge of Islamic Archaeology at the French Institute in Cairo from Sept. 2001 to Sept. 2012. Dr Pradines also was Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology at Cairo University and created later the First Field School of Islamic Archaeology in Egypt. Dr Pradines’ fieldwork includes the direction of Excavations of the Fatimid and Ayyubid Walls of Cairo, Excavations of Kilwa, Swahili medieval harbour of Tanzania and of Gedi, Swahili medieval harbour of Kenya and more recently Excavation of Dembeni (Mayotte, French Comoros). His publications include Fortifications et urbanisation en Afrique orientale, Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology, 2004 and Gedi, une cité portuaire swahilie. Islam médiéval en Afrique orientale Monograph of the French Institute of Archaeology, 2010.

Dr Pradines is Associate researcher with the CNRS in Paris, UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée, APIM programme. Dr Pradines is a member of the the Editorial Board, Islamic Archaeological Studies Journal, Islamic Art Museum, Cairo; a Member of the Editorial Board & Book review editor of the Journal of Islamic Archaeology; a Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Dominican Institute, MIDEO, Cairo.

Dr Pradines is in charge of two research programmes and two main international excavations.

1/ Warfare in Medieval Middle East: The Walls of Cairo, Egypt

Partner institutions: French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO); Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC); the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (the ‘MAEE’); with institutional and administrative support being provided by the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities Service (the ‘SCA’).

In 2000, The French Institute of Archaeology (IFAO) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) launched a programme of study, excavation and conservation of the medieval walls of Cairo. Our excavations were located on four sites: the Parking Darassa (2000-2009), Bab al-Tawfiq (2004-2005), Burg al-Zafar (2007 to date) and Bab al-Nasr (2012). The excavations focused on the Ayyubid Wall, known as Saladin Wall (1169-1178), and the Fatimid enclosure of Badr al-Gamali (1087-1092). Nowadays our excavations are limited to the sites of Burg al-Zafar and Bab al-Nasr. In 2012, we discovered a new gate behind Bab al-Nasr and our recent investigation shows that we found the old wall of Gawhar built in 969-971. The excavations of the walls of Cairo are the first field school in Islamic archaeology in the Middle-East and the biggest mission in Islamic archaeology for Egypt.

The excavations on the Walls of Cairo are not limited to the study of the fortifications. The excavations are a great field of investigation for the knowledge of medieval Cairo and allow us to observe the interaction between the city and the fortifications of Cairo, from the Fatimid era to the modern period. The study focuses on the city and the study of the material culture from the 10th to 16th centuries. Dr Pradines 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.

Dr Pradines continues to collaborate with the IIS (Institute of Ismaili Studies) on a project called ‘Virtual Fatimid Cairo’, regarding the development of a 3D computer model of Fatimid Cairo at the time of Nasir Khusraw (1004-1088 CE). He offered his scientific support to provide historical, geographical and archaeological information on the city. This IIS project is under the supervision of Dr. Jiwa Shainool. Dr Pradines is working with Zehra Lalji in charge of the project and Farhad Mortezaee, architect.

Dr Pradines launched a project on Egyptian Black Death during the Mamluk period. The co-directors of this project are Professor Hendrik Poinar, Director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University, Ontario and Sharon N. DeWitte, Ph.D., University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.

From 2001 to 2009, Dr Pradines’ team excavated the largest Mamluk cemetery in Historic Cairo. During the excavation they 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 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 witness of the great plague epidemic during the 14th and 15th century in Egypt.

The Black Death was one of the most devastating epidemics in human history. Despite decades of research on the 14th-century epidemic, there are still important questions about variation in risks of mortality within and between populations during the Black Death, and there has been relatively little work focusing on the effects of the Black Death in populations outside of Europe. This project will expand our understanding of geographic and cultural variation in Black Death mortality patterns by examining how age, sex, and health status affected risks of mortality within the medieval population of Cairo. Bioarchaeological data will be collected from individuals buried in multiple graves excavated in Fatimid Cairo, and the data will be analyzed using the most rigorous paleodemographic and paleoepidemiological methods available. The proposed study will be the first of its kind to thoroughly characterize the phylogenetics and phylogeography of the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis, responsible for the Black Death of 1346-50. Coupled with what is known about the mortality patterns, modes of transmission, and other epidemiological characteristics of ancient and modern plague, it will be the first comprehensive evaluation of an emerging disease and its impact on multiple human generations. A full evolutionary genetic account of this unprecedented example of disease emergence will provide a new foundation for understanding variation in virulence in modern endemic diseases.

2/ Muslim Cultures of the Indian Ocean

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

Dr Pradines’ research project concerns navigation, trade and the beginnings of Islam in the Western Indian Ocean: the Swahili Coast, focusing particularly on the beginnings of the Muslim connections with East Africa and how trade propagated Islam in sub-Saharan Africa.

After working from 1999 to 2003 on the site of Gedi in Kenya (Pradines, 2010) and from 2004 to 2006 at two sites Songo Mnara and Sanje ya Kati, in the region of Kilwa in Tanzania (Pradines, 2005 and 2009), the team focused its attention on an ancient site in the Comoros archipelago. After a quick reconnaissance of archaeological sites on the island of Mayotte in 2009, the team decided to focus on the Dembeni site . 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, the team discovered that the accumulation of wealth on the site was not made ​​by chance it was the rock crystal trade that provided huge financial incomes 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 against the precious rock crystal, which 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.

Dr Pradines works with different specialists regarding the rock crystal trade including Professor Anna Contadini (SOAS, London), also about Chinese ceramic trade with Dr. Bing Zao (Cnrs, Paris) and my main research partner is Dr. Hélène Renel (Cnrs, Paris) who is in charge of the study of Islamic and African ceramics. Hélène Renel stated that some ceramics, normally attributed to the Swahili and Comorian Cultures, are in fact most probably from Madagascar and tend to prove the strong Malagasy influence in Mayotte. The excavation is part of the CNRS’s programme “Atlas ports et itinéraires maritimes de l’Islam medieval”.

Created on:04/26/2016 Last modified:09/12/2016