Trans-SAHARA - University of Leicester

Thursday 12 April 2012, by CerAfIm // 8. Institutions

Trans-SAHARA is a major new project that seeks to investigate the nature and consequences of the interconnectivity of the Trans-Saharan zone in the Pre-Islamic period (1000 BC–AD1100–1500). Funded by the European Research Council it builds on the work of previous research projects in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History (The Fazzan Project, Desert Migrations Project – funded by the Society for Libyan Studies – and Peopling the Desert Project – funded by the Leverhulme Trust).
The new research explores the archaeology of the Garamantes, an indigenous, ubanised state in the central Saharan oases of Fazzan, Libya, active from 1000 BC to AD500. Four research themes – Trade; Urbanisation and State Formation; Mobile Technologies; Human Mobility – investigate the degree of interconnectedness or comparative isolation of the central Sahara from neighbouring regions to north, east, south and south-west.

The project will combine state of the art archaeological fieldwork with cutting-edge laboratory analysis and artefactual studies, backed up by novel theoretical propositions and profound engagement with published archaeological and historical research across the broad chronological and geographical range. The work will be interdisciplinary and will involve a wide team of researchers, building on the personnel involved with work on the Desert Migrations Project (but with an explicit agenda to engage with other experts covering pre-history and historic archaeology, history, anthropology and palaeoanthropology, genetics, isotopic analysis and scientific dating techniques. The division into four research themes, each with key data sets, will allow a fuller assessment of the impact of connectivity between civilisations.

Ceramic Research
The ceramic research will be fitted into the research theme of ‘Trade’. The principal questions we are looking at through the pottery are: What are the implications of the evidence for the Garamantes in the face of current views that suggest limited pre-Islamic trans-Saharan contacts? What are the identifiable markers for pre-Islamic Saharan trade and what can be deduced about their distribution? Are Mediterranean goods travelling to the sub-Saharan zone What were the differences and similarities between Islamic and Garamantian period trans-Saharan trade? What can the handmade wares tell us about the movement of people and ideas over time?