A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, Vol. IV: Daily Life / Edition 1

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This six-volume "portrait of a Mediterranean personality" is a composite portrait of the individuals who wrote the personal letters, contracts, and all other manuscript fragments that found their way into the Cairo Geniza. Most of the fragments from the Geniza, a storeroom for discarded writings that could not be thrown away because they might contain the name of God, had been removed to Cambridge University Library and other libraries around the world. Professor Goitein devoted the last thirty years of his long and productive life to their study, deciphering the language of the documents and organizing what he called a "marvelous treasure trove of manuscripts" into a coherent, fascinating picture of the society that created them.

It is a rich, panoramic view of how people lived, traveled, worshiped, and conducted their economic and social affairs. The first and second volumes describe the economic foundations of the society and the institutions and social and political structures that characterized the community. The remaining material, intended for a single volume describing the particulars of the way people lived, blossomed into three volumes, devoted respectively to the family, daily life, and the individual. The divisions are arbitrary but helpful because of the wealth of information. The author refers throughout to other passages in his monumental work that amplify what is discussed in any particular section. The result is an incomparably clear and immediate impression of how it was in the Mediterranean world of the tenth through the thirteenth century.

Volume IV, subtitled Daily Life, details city life, domestic architecture, furnishings and housewares, clothing and jewelry, food and drink, and other material culture.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520221611
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 5/19/2000
  • Series: Near Eastern Center, UCLA Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 513
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

S. D. Goitein (1900-1985), scholar, administrator, professor, and author of 500 or more books and articles in Hebrew and English, worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton until his death. A Mediterranean Society was awarded the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Society after publication of the first two volumes. Subsequent volumes received the National Jewish Book Award.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Abbreviations and Symbols xix
Map of Medieval Egypt xxviii
IX. Daily Life 1
A. The Home 1
1. The City 1
The medieval Islamic city
Capitals and port cities
The great cities and "the Province"
Cairo and Fustat
Topographic features
Unoccupied premises
Semipublic buildings and other landmarks
The House of God as the gathering place for the people
The presence of the government
Security and sanitation
The individual and his hometown
2. Domestic Architecture 47
General character
Geniza evidence, archaeology, and the traditional Egyptian house
Types of houses
Front and entrance
The qa'a, or main floor
The living room, its interior, and accessory chambers
The uses of the qa'a
The upper floors
The loggia and similar structures
Staircases and roofs
Storage rooms
Stables and other isolated structures
Belvederes and gardens
Three houses as described in documents: A mansion in Fustat
The upper floors of a Cairene house
A three-story house in a provincial town
3. Socioeconomic Aspects of Housing 82
Prices, sales, and gifts of houses
Renting of premises
Durability and maintenance
4. Furnishings of the Home 105
The interior: The wife's domain
Seating and bedding
Draperies, carpets, mats, and hides
Trunks and chests
Lighting and heating
Fumigating and freshening
5. Housewares 138
Storage and cooking
Dining and amenities
B. Clothing and Jewelry 150
1. Clothing 150
Attitudes toward clothing and general appearance
Clothing at home and outerwear
Male and female costumes
Changing, especially for the Sabbath and holidays
Types of clothing: the parts of the body and their covers
Fabrics and clors
Tailoring and treatment
Care and economic importance
Cosmopolitan, local, and communal aspects
2. Jewelry 200
Shapes and techniques
The ornaments
At the dressing table
C. Food and Drink 226
1. Food 226
Talking about food
Household accounts
Wheat and bread
"All the things men eat with bread"
2. Wine and Other Beverages 253
Wine as daily diet and for festive occasions
Containers and prices
Domestic and imported
Recipes for wine
Soft drinks
D. Mounts 261
The riding animal as status symbol
Renting mounts
The material things. A Retrospective
A Note on Sachkultur 270
Appendixes 271
A. Prices of Houses in Geniza Documents (antedating 1250) 273
B. The Cost of Rents in Communal Buildings 291
C. Furnishings 297
D. Selected Documents 310
Documents I-V. Five Trousseau Lists
Document VI. Pawning of Garments and Other Items of a Trousseau
Documents VII-IX. From the Inventories of the Estates of Men
Documents X, a--c. Documents on Jewelry and Silver Utensils
Notes 345
Index 469
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