Camel caravan

Camel caravan
Mosaic from Deir al-Adas, Syria, 8th century (photo: J.C.Meyer)
The research project Mechanisms of cross-cultural interaction: Networks in the Roman Near East (2013-2017) investigates the resilient everyday ties, such as trade, religion and power, connecting people within and across fluctuating imperial borders in the Near East in the Roman Period. The project is funded under the Research Council of Norway's SAMKUL initiative, and hosted by the Department of archaeology, history, cultural studies and religion, University of Bergen, Norway.

This blog is no longer updated, for any queries, please contact project leader Eivind Heldaas Seland

Monday, 23 November 2015

New publication: Writ in water, lines in sand

I've got a new article out. It is called "Writ in water, lines in sand: Ancient trade routes, models and comparative evidence" and deals with the problems of tracing connectivity in the distant past. It started as a paper at  the workshop A Thousand Worlds: Network Models in Archaeology, Durham October 2013. Thanks to Rune Rattenborg for inviting me to the workshop and to Kristoffer Damgaard for his extensive comments to the manuscript.

The article is published in Cogent Arts & Humanities, a new Open Access mega-journal for the humanities, and can be dowloaded for free from their website. They demand a public interest statement for each article, explaining why it is interesting and important. I've pasted mine with the abstract below:


Historians and archaeologists often take connectivity for granted, and fail to address the problems of documenting patterns of movement. This article highlights the methodological challenges of reconstructing trade routes in prehistory and early history. The argument is made that these challenges are best met through the application of modern models of connectivity, in combination with the conscious use of comparative approaches.

Public Interest Statement

Trade is a driving force in the global economy, and among the prime agents of wealth distribution as well as cultural and political change. Historical and archaeological research has demonstrated that this is no recent phenomena, but that forerunners of the processes today labelled as globalization have been at work within all spheres of society throughout human history. While acknowledging the central role played by long-distance trade in the past, I argue in this article that scholars often take connectivity for granted, overlooking the major physical and institutional obstacles to travel in the premodern period, as well as the problems inherent to reconstructing the dynamic process of trade from the static evidence of texts and archaeological data. By insisting that scholars should not limit themselves to observing that objects moved and changed hand, but also ask how, we may not only increase our understanding of premodern economies, but also be in a position to better appreciate the nature of contemporary exchange.