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Book: Archaeology, Politics and Islamicate Cultural Heritage in Europe

Chapter: 10. Between Transculturation and Re-enculturation: The Gravestones of Ottoman Bosnia and Europe's Islamicate Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.36079


The transition from a predominantly Christian to an Ottoman Islamic cultural system in Bosnia in the late 15th century led to the emergence of different funerary styles. The process of conversion to Islam among the local population, which occurred in several waves after the fall in 867 H/ 1463 CE, left lasting effects on local death culture, funerary markers, and commemorative sensibilities. This change in the religious landscape paved the way to new modes of marking death and remembering the ancestors. This paper focuses on the funerary images and texts of the early period between the late 15th and late 17th centuries and examines the role of gravestones and other burial markers for a better understanding of the complex cultural shifts and exchange that unfolded between Bosnian Christians (Orthodox and Catholic) and Muslims. The funerary objects under consideration are treated as dynamic cultural spaces that inscribe memory, history, and heritage in addition to being texts that display, in image and word, partial biographical information about the dead. They tell a different story from the official documents and conventional history books, according to which the administrative grouping of the religious communities/millets kept clear lines of separation in the Ottoman Balkans. Most notably, the funerary texts reflect an important process of transculturation, which entailed a dynamic interaction across the religious divide whereby all groups underwent an uneven acquisition and loss of elements of their funerary culture. In unpacking the role that gravestones played in such historical and cultural permutations, the article advocates the
importance of considering the gravestones' relevance in understanding the European Islamicate heritage as a product of interactive spaces of cultural contact and exchange, which severely undermines the Christian/Muslim dichotomy common to the modern European understanding of the self.

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