Archiv der Kategorie: Fortresses

Strongholds of Political Power, Strongholds of Resistance

Securing monumental structures on the Zimbabwe plateau and adjacent regions (1100-1900 AD)


ATTENTION! New  appointment! Scheduled now on 3rd June!



Interdisciplinary lecture series

of the Marburger Arbeitskreises für europäische Burgenforschung e.V., Germany, and Aarhus University, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, Denmark

6th meeting

When: Friday, June 3, 2022

Entry: 12:30 CET. Begin: 13:00 CET

Topic: Strongholds of Political Power, Strongholds of Resistance: Securing monumental structures on the Zimbabwe plateau and adjacent regions (1100-1900 AD)

Register in advance for this webinar:

When: Friday, May 06, 2022

Entry: 12:30 CET. Begin: 13:00 CET

Topic: Strongholds of Political Power, Strongholds of Resistance: Securing monumental structures on the Zimbabwe plateau and adjacent regions (1100-1900 AD)

Or on H.323/SIP room sestem:

H.323: or

Meeting ID: 659 0349 4238

SIP: 65903494238@ or 65903494238@

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


Innocent Pikirayi, PhD

Department of Anthropology, Archaeology and Development Studies, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0028, SOUTH AFRICA


Strongholds of Political Power, Strongholds of Resistance:

Securing monumental structures on the Zimbabwe plateau and adjacent regions (1100-1900 AD)

During the early second millennium AD, the Zimbabwe Tradition, a settlement system synonymous with state-level societies developed on the Zimbabwe plateau and adjacent regions. Characterised by monumental stone-walled structures, antiquarians and early archaeologists interpreted these as ‘forts’, linked to long-distance trade. Referring to early sixteenth century Great Zimbabwe, Portuguese chronicler João de Barros remarked that it “is guarded by a nobleman, who has charge of it, after the manner of a chief alcaide, and they call this officer Symbacayo ….” Alcaide is an Iberian term borrowed from Arabic al-qāʼid, meaning commander of fort or castle. I employ the concept of ‘stronghold’ beyond European understandings of Medieval fortifications or castles, to denote power and understand how monumental structures served ruling elites. European concepts of defence cannot be applied to understand the construction and function of sites such as Great Zimbabwe.

With European expansion into the African interior after 1500 AD, the same region witnessed both European and local strongholds (‘loopholed forts’), the latter constructed to resist Portuguese attacks. These were ‘strongholds of resistance’. To survive European siege warfare, these strongholds also used European weaponry. The term ‘Refuge Tradition’, was an unsuccessful attempt by some archaeologists to characterise the rise of hilltop and fortified settlements from 1700 to the onset of British rule in 1890.


Our speaker

Innocent Pikirayi, PhD

Innocent Pikirayi made his BA in History, an MA in African History an his PhD in Archaeology.

From 2010 to 2019, Innocent Pikirayi served as Professor in Archaeology and Chair in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Pretoria. He is now Professor and Deputy Dean responsible for Postgraduate Studies and Research Ethics in the Faculty of Humanities at the same university. In 2019, he was Visiting Professor in Archaeology at the Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) at Aarhus University in Denmark. He is also serving as Honorary Research Associate of the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge, for three years until 30th September 2023.

Innocent Pikirayi serves as advisors to the following journals in archaeology and the broader humanities: Azania: Archaeological in Africa (Routledge), African Archaeological Review (Springer), Antiquity: A Review of World Archaeology, The Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, and the African Humanities Publication (AHP) Series (Carnegie Corporation).

Innocent Pikirayi is a member of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC), the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), the Society of Africanist Archaeologists (SAfA), the Shanghai Archaeology Forum (SAF), the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA), the South African Archaeological Society (ArchSoc), the Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE), and the Academy of Science South Africa (ASSAf).


Select References on Great Zimbabwe:

Bent, J. T. 1896. The ruined cities of Mashonaland. London: Spottiswoode.

Beach, D. N. 1988. ‘Refuge’ archaeology, trade and gold mining in nineteenth-century Zimbabwe: Izidoro Correia Pereira’s list of 1857. Zimbabwean Prehistory 20, 3-8.

Garlake, P. S. 1973. Great Zimbabwe. London: Thames and Hudson.

Pikirayi, I. 2000. Wars, violence and strongholds: an overview of fortified settlements in northern Zimbabwe. Journal of Peace, Conflict and Military Studies 1 (1), 1-12.

Pikirayi, I. 2009. Palaces, Feiras and Prazos: An Historical Archaeological Perspective of African–Portuguese Contact in Northern Zimbabwe. African Archaeological Review 26 (3), 163-185.

Pikirayi, I. 2013. Stone architecture and the development of power in the Zimbabwe tradition AD 1270-1830. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 48 (2), 282-300.

Randall-MacIver, D. 1906. Medieval Rhodesia. London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd.


Six principal and relevant publications by Pikirayi:

Pikirayi, I. and Magoma, M. 2021. Retrieving Intangibility, Stemming Biodiversity Loss: The Case of Sacred Places in Venda, Northern South Africa. Heritage, 4, 4524–4541.

Kusimba, C.M. and Pikirayi, I. 2020. A Conversation with Peter Ridgway Schmidt, the Ṣango of African Archaeology. African Archaeological Review 37, 185–223,

Pikirayi, I. 2017. Ingombe Ilede and the demise of Great Zimbabwe. Antiquity: A Review of World Archaeology 91 (318), 1085-1086,

Pikirayi, I. 2018. Investigating Complexity: Great Zimbabwe from a Multidisciplinary Perspective. In Ekblom, A., Isendahl, C. and Lindholm, K-J (eds). The Resilience of Heritage: Cultivating a Future of the Past – Essays in Honour of Professor Paul J.J. Sinclair. Uppsala University: African and Comparative Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, 83-100.

Pikirayi, I. 2019. Local narratives, regional histories and the demise of Great Zimbabwe. In Schmidt, P. and Kehoe, A. B. (eds). Archaeologies of Listening. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 131-153.

Pikirayi, I. 2019. Sustainability and an archaeology of the future. Antiquity: A Review of World Archaeology 93 (372), 1669-1671,

Sulas, F. and Pikirayi, I. (eds). 2018. Water and Ancient Societies: Resilience, decline and revival. New York and London: Routledge.



Strongholds of the World

Interdisciplinary lecture series of the

Marburger Arbeitskreises für europäische Burgenforschung e.V., Germany,

and Aarhus University, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, Denmark

in 2022

5th meeting:

Kevin Kerr BA, Msc

Gurness: A new chapter for an old story

Among the hundreds of Broch structures in the Atlantic zone of modern Scotland, Gurness stands iconic. The brooding, two-thousand-year-old remains convey a real sense of the strength, power and success of a middle Iron Age community in Orkney. Interpretations have traditionally placed the towers as defensive, acting both as a village refuge and as a deterrent from coastal raids. Modern excavation elsewhere in Orkney, however, is proving that Broch complexes were much more integral to the lives of the communities they served. In this lecture, my aim is to introduce Gurness both as an existing icon of Broch studies but also to highlight its potential as a contributor to new interpretations.

Our speaker:

Kevin Kerr BA, Msc

Kerr has been involved in field Archaeology for the last 13 years with the last 6 based on Orkney. He currently works for the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) as a field archaeologist. Kerr has been heavily involved on most of the major research digs on Orkney and has been the small finds officer for The Cairns Broch excavations since 2016. He is also a seasonal custodian at the Broch of Gurness for Historic Environment Scotland. Kerr currently is completing a Master of Research degree at the UHI based on the findings of excavations at The Cairns and their implications for older excavations such as Gurness.

When: Friday, February 11, 2022

Entry: 12:30 CET. Begin: 13:00 CET

Topic: Gurness: a new chapter of an old story

Register in advance for this webinar:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Alexandria’s Urban Fortifications under Mamluk and Ottoman Rule

Strongholds of the World Lecture Series, Part 3 – now online on youtube! See beyond!

with Dr. Kathrin Machinek, Alexandria

Interdisciplinary lecture series of the Marburger Arbeitskreises für europäische Burgenforschung e.V., Germany, and Aarhus University, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, Denmark

Alexandria, fort Qaitbay

Alexandria’s urban fortifications under Mamluk and Ottoman rule

This session from our lecture series “Strongholds of the World” sheds light upon the defense systems of the Mamluk and Ottoman period Alexandria. Alexandria, Egypt’s main seaport on the Mediterranean shore, was often praised by travelers from the past for its impressive fortifications. Nowadays, only few remnants exist of the former urban defense system, the city walls, forts and watchtowers having almost entirely been demolished in the late 19th century by the rapidly expanding modern city.

As a coastal border town, medieval Alexandria was constantly a target for enemy invasions, thus the various Islamic rulers kept renovating and modernizing the fortifications. After the disastrous raid of Alexandria by the Cypriots in 1365, the Mamluk sultans repaired the damages and established new strongholds. In 1477, the entrance to the Eastern harbor was secured by a new majestic fortress, constructed on the ruins of the famous ancient lighthouse.

After the conquest of Mamluk Egypt by the Ottomans in 1516, Alexandria was located within the territory dominated by the Sublime Porte and therefore less exposed to seaborne attacks. The citizens started to settle outside the city walls between the two harbors and abandoned the old town intra muros. Nevertheless, the Ottoman governors preserved the urban fortifications and added new forts in the harbor zone.

Our Speaker:

Dr. Kathrin Machinek, research engineer at the French CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), is working as a building historian at the Centre d’Études Alexandrines, USR 3134, in Alexandria/ Egypt, under the direction of Dr. Marie-Dominique Nenna. []

She obtained a Phd in architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany: « The Qaitbay fort in Alexandria – History and Architecture of a Mamluk fortress in the urban defense system of Alexandria » []

 Research themes:

  • Military history and fortifications of Alexandria
  • Islamic fortifications from the Middle Ages to modern time
  • Medieval and Ottoman Alexandria
  • Mamluk architecture
  • Archaeological excavations at fort Qaitbay and fort Tabiyet Nahassin in Alexandria
  • Features of Pharaonic architecture in Alexandria

Short Bibliography:

  1. Machinek 2020, « Deux citernes hypostyles dans le fort Qaitbay (Alexandrie) », in M.-D. Nenna (ed.), Alexandrina 5, ÉtAlex 50, Alexandria, 2020, p. 439-464 (to go to press).
  2. Machinek 2018, « Alexandria – Ottoman fortifications in a Mediterranean trading town », Symposium Fortifications of the Ottoman period in the Aegean, Ephorate of Lesbos, 30th October – 31st October 2018, p. 239-250 (to go to press).
  3. Machinek 2015, « Aperçu sur les fortifications médiévales d’Alexandrie. Histoire, architecture et archéologie », in M. Eychenne, A. Zouache (ed.), La guerre dans le Proche-Orient: État de la question, lieux communs, nouvelles approches, RAPH 37, Cairo, Damascus, 2015, p. 363-394.
  4. Machinek 2014, « Hygiene in islamischen Festungsbauten », in O. Wagener (ed.), Aborte im Mittelalter und der Frühen Neuzeit – Bauforschung, Archäologie, Kulturgeschichte, Studien zur internationalen Architektur- und Kunstgeschichte117, Petersberg, 2014, p. 292-301.
  5. Machinek 2014, Das Fort Qaitbay in Alexandria – Baugeschichte und Architektur einer mamlukischen Hafenfestung im mittelalterlichen Stadtbefestigungssystem von Alexandria, PhD thesis, submitted at the Department of Architecture, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in 2014.
  6. Machinek 2010, « Der Wandel der Stadtbefestigung Alexandrias vom Mittelalter bis in die Gegenwart », in O. Wagener (ed.), vmbringt mit starcken turnen, murn – Ortsbefestigungen im Mittelalter, Beihefte zur Mediaevistik15, Frankfurt a.M., 2010, p. 431-450.
  7. Machinek 2009, Le fort Qaitbay, Les petits guides d’Alexandrie, Alexandria, 2009, edition in English, French and Arabic.

Coastal Defences of Maharashtra, India


The lecture is now online:

Strongholds of the World Lecture Series, Part 2

with Archana Deshmukh, Pune

Interdisciplinary lecture series of the Marburger Arbeitskreises für europäische Burgenforschung e.V., Germany, and Aarhus University, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, Denmark

When: September 10, 2021

Entry: 1:30 PM Copenhagen. Begin: 02:00 PM Copenhagen

Register in advance for this webinar:

Or an H.323/SIP room system:

 H.323: or

 Meeting ID: 648 0719 3180

 SIP: 64807193180@ or 64807193180@

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


Coastal Defences of Maharashtra, India

This session from our lecture series “Strongholds of the World” will shed light upon the various typologies of defense systems along the western coast of Maharashtra, India, popularly known as Konkan. The components of defense systems comprises of island forts, coastal forts, fortified factories, fortified outposts, archeological remains, historic settlements, historic monuments and other cultural resources which form many complex military coastal cultural landscapes.

The Konkan is a narrow strip of land between the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri Range famously known as Western Ghats, is not a continuous strip. The spurs of the Sahyadries gradually lose height as they approach the coast, and far in the sea they create islands. A distinctive feature of the coastline and to site varied typology of the built and natural heritage, and its historical, cultural, military, ecological significance within this region is the consequence of human interventions in the past, and testimony to the various cultures, the contribution of defense systems, which evolved and enriched this land. Due to its rich Maritime Tradition, trade and commerce flourished from ancient times.

The maritime forts which were built to guard commercial and territorial interests narrate stories about trade routes, piracy and battles and above all the aspirations of mankind to travel to new territories to better their lives. The forts, therefore, must be seen as the symbols of such aspirations and more specifically as important defense systems and military warfare in terms to understand the growth of this area in terms of cultural resources which includes various typologies of forts, its defense mechanism to protect the boundaries and to mark the territories

Our Speaker:

Archana Deshmuk is a practicing principal conservation architect of “Nasadeeya” Architecture and conservation firm based in Pune, Maharashtra. She has pursued Architecture degree from Maharashtra and Masters from New Delhi in Architectural Conservation. She has been in the field for more than twelve years and has worked in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat on various projects related to forts and fortified heritage. She stood a merit student in her masters thesis about Maritime coastal cultural landscape of coastal Maharashtra in 2011. In February 2017 she organized a tour for Fortress group to study forts and fortifications of coastal and western Maharashtra with support of NscFORT, also organized a seminar in collaboration with MTDC, ASI and State Archeology along with various NGO’s working on Forts in Pune, Maharashtra.


A military Stronghold “Namhansanseong” in Korea


When: Feb 4, 2021, 12:30 CET


PH.D. Doo-Won Cho, Seoul:

The military stronghold ‘Namhansanseong’ in Korea

Namhansanseong was an important military stronghold, as well as an emergency capital, from the 7th Century to the late 19th Century. Namhansanseong was never taken by enemies, though it was witness to several national and international battles throughout its history, and acted as a symbol of the defense of the kingdom with a Buddhist spirit of patriotism. The fortress was constructed by military Buddhist monks and managed for military purposes with 10 temples for the Buddhist monk army (Seungyeong Sachal) which was located inside the fortress for 300 years. The fortress is very meaningful historically and academically, not least because it shows a variety of Korean fortress construction techniques, but also because it bears witness to the exchange of important values of mankind and embodies various intangible values.

Namhansanseong consists of three different landscape components: a military component, a governmental component and a folklore landscape component. Each component is supported by authentic historical materials, and Namhansanseong’s integrity and authenticity were recognized by its inscription as UNESCO World Heritage in 2014.

Namhansanseong is preserved and managed by Gyeonggi-do Namhansanseong World Heritage Centre (NHSS WHC). All measures for conservation management at Namhansanseong are carried out by Gyeonggi-do NHSS WHC in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, local governments, Namhansanseong Management Committee and Namhansanseong Cultural Heritage Guardians.

Namhansanseong, Abschnitt des westlichen Walles mit Westtor. Foto: Ch. Ottersbach, 2011


Our Speaker:

PH.D. Doo-Won Cho is an expert on the World Heritage. He has studied in the Republic of Korea and in Germany architecture and monument preservation. He wrote his PH.D. thesis about the royal Korean fortress town Suwon and its historical documentation in the “Hwaseong Seongyeok Uigwe” at the chair of monument preservation of the Otto-Friedrichs-Universität Bamberg, Germany. He is General Secretary from Dec. 2019 of ICOFORT (International Scientific Committee for Fortifications and Military Heritage of ICOMOS) and he was ICOFORT Vice-president (2015–2019). He has worked extensively on the World Heritage Site Management of Korean fortress such as World Heritage Namhansanseong. He is one of team members for the formulation of ‘ICOFORT Charter on Fortifications and military heritage(draft)’. Currently, he is an Expert committee member of World Heritage Division for the Cultural Property of Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea since 2017. He is an adjunct professor of the World Heritage Department at the Konkuk University in Seoul 2015–2019. Doo-Won Cho is also member of the Marburger Arbeitskreis für europäische Burgenforschung e.V./Marburg Working Group on European Castle Research.

Doo-Won Cho has been in charge of planning on the cultural policy of the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation and research on the tentative cultural heritage, intangible cultural heritage and memory of the world of Gyeonggi-do Province, ROK. Otherwise, he is working at the Cultural Heritage team of the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation and is in charge of World Heritage monitoring, – nomination, – conservation and management on the tentatively selected Sites like DMZ, Bukhansanseong fortress, Doksansanseong fortress etc.


Register in advance for this webinar:

Or an H.323/SIP room system:

   H.323: or

   Meeting ID: 618 7465 8438

   SIP: 61874658438@ or 61874658438@

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.



Befestigte Plätze weltweit – Strongholds of the World

Interdisziplinäre Vortragsreihe des Marburger Arbeitskreises für europäische Burgenforschung e. V. und der University of Aarhus, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, 2021

Allmählich begreifen wir Menschen, dass es nur eine Menschheit gibt, nur einen Homo Sapiens – überall auf der Welt. Es gibt keine unterschiedlichen Rassen, sondern nur verschiedene, äußerst reiche Kulturen. Wir haben mehr Verbindendes als Trennendes, mehr Gemeinsamkeiten als Unterschiede. Nicht zuletzt Covid 19 ist gerade dabei, uns diese Lektion zu lehren. Teil der Menschheitsgeschichte sind auch Gewalt und Gewaltkulturen und damit die Notwendigkeit, sich vor anderen zu schützen – auch wenn wir dies gerne ausblenden und verdrängen. Die Wissenschaft diskutiert seit einiger Zeit, wann und wie der „Krieg“ in die Welt kam, und ob dies mit der Sesshaftwerdung des Menschen in Zusammenhang steht. Fest steht, schon frühe Hochkulturen kannten das Bedürfnis sich vor anderen zu schützen und Leben und Eigentum gegen Angreifer zu verteidigen (vgl. hierzu Armin Eich: Die Söhne des Mars. Eine Geschichte des Krieges von der Steinzeit bis zum Ende der Antike. München 2015).

Europa kennt seit dem Frühmittelalter die Burg als bevorzugten Sitz der – weitgehend adeligen – Eliten in einer bis ins 18./19. Jahrhundert überwiegend durch das Lehenswesen geprägten Gesellschaft. Die politisch kleinräumige Organisation, Kriege und Fehden förderten bis ins 16. Jahrhundert den Bau solcher festen Wohnplätze, die Burg ist ein europaweites Phänomen von Portugal im Westen bis Russland im Osten, von Norwegen im Norden bis Malta und Griechenland im Süden – und sie wurde von den Europäern als Bau- und Wohnform bis in den Orient und ganz zu Anfang der Kolonialepoche sogar bis nach Westafrika, auf die Antillen und nach Indien exportiert und beeinflusste stilistisch sogar den Bau der äthiopischen Kaiserresidenz im frühen 17. Jahrhundert. Doch wie sah es in anderen Teilen bzw. Kulturen der Welt aus? Gab und gibt es auch dort „Burgen“ in diesem europäischen Sinne als Sitze von gesellschaftlichen Eliten? Oder gestalteten sich die Anlage und der Bau befestigter Wohnsitze ganz anders? Hatten solche Plätze eine ganz andere Funktion? Was waren hierfür die gesellschaftlichen und politischen Voraussetzungen? Japan hat bis ins 17. Jahrhundert beispielsweise eine zu Europa analoge Entwicklung durchgemacht und wurde trotz zahlloser kultureller Unterschiede zum Westen ähnlich wie dieses durch zahllose Sitze mehr oder weniger mächtiger Feudalherren und ihrer Vasallen geprägt. Auch Indien kennt Burgen, freilich in Ausmaßen, welche die Größe europäischer Fürsten- und Herrensitze bei weitem übertreffen. In China und Korea hingegen existierten seit ältesten Zeiten zentralistisch aufgebaute Reiche, in denen es keine Adelsburgen gab. Hingegen existierten u. a. im Korea der Choseon-Dynastie große Fluchtburgen für den König, den Hof und Teile der Bevölkerung. Ähnlich verhält es sich mit den großen muslimischen Reichen rund ums Mittelmeer und in Zentralasien. Und wie sah es im alten Amerika vor der Ankunft der Europäer aus? Gab es Burgen in Afrika südlich der Sahara? Wie schützten sich Menschen dort vor Angriffen ihrer Nachbarn? Wer waren die Bauherren befestigter Anlagen? Welche Rolle spielten sie in bewaffneten Konflikten um Land und Ressourcen oder religiösen Auseinandersetzungen? Gab es auch andernorts wie in Korea große Fluchtburgen? Und wie sahen gegebenenfalls Burgen und Schanzen im Rahmen von Belagerungen aus? Alle diese Fragen stellen sich auch mit dem Blick nach Ozeanien oder Neuseeland, wo die kriegerischen Maori stark befestigte Plätze errichteten.

In einer Vortragsreihe wollen der Marburger Arbeitskreis und die Universität Aarhus, research programme “Materials, Culture and Heritage”, diesen Fragen nachgehen und den eurozentrischen Blick weiten bzw. hinterfragen. Befestigte Anlagen aus aller Welt stehen im Mittelpunkt – und zwar vorzugsweise solche, die nicht seit dem 16. Jahrhundert von europäischen Kolonialherren, sondern seit dem Altertum von der autochthonen Bevölkerung bzw. nichteuropäischen Staaten und Gesellschaften errichtet wurden.

Die Vortragsreihe ist interdisziplinär angelegt, die Vorträge sind auf Grund der Kontinente übergreifenden Thematik und Internationalität auf Englisch.

Dardanellenburg Rumeli Hisari, Türkei, Mitte 15. Jahrhundert