Holes and Markings: Physical Traces of Archiving Practices in Fatimid Documents

By Marina Rustow
Submitted to Session P6510 (Notions of the Archive in the Medieval Middle East, 2021 Annual Meeting
Fertile Crescent;
7th-13th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Documents tell their own story, not just through text, but through their material qualities, including format, layout, folds and holes. In my recent book, I argued for the existence of a complex Fatimid bureaucracy and archiving system. In this paper, I will extend that analysis to new documents, offering examples of registration marks, summaries, annotations, folds and binding holes that attest to systems of document storage and retrieval. Expanding our historical detective work from text to paratext can offer a more realistic picture of how premodern states and legal courts worked, and, in turn, can support a richer understanding of medieval Middle Eastern society and power relations.