Trans-Saharans 2014: Trade

Conference report

Two people in front of a laptopThe Trans-Sahara trade conference took place from Monday 28th to Wednesday 30th April 2014 at the University of Leicester conference centre. Papers were pre-circulated and each speaker presented the paper of another participant to provoke wider discussion. The multi-period and multi-disciplinary nature of the conference, encompassing all aspects of trade within the Trans-Saharan zone, was highly successful.

Three people talking in a conference roomThe range of research specialists meant that participants were forced to question their own methodologies and engage with new ways of thinking. It was also a useful forum for discussing common problems and possible solutions for particularly complex questions, such as how we trace trade routes, the biases involved when using particular commodities to follow the history of trade, how to take into account of invisible trade, and further problems with the fluidity of the routes themselves and the impact of political and environmental change.

The papers will be published in a volume that takes into account the conference discussions and advances the original ideas of the individual authors. We hope this ground-breaking approach will set a new research agenda for trade in the Trans-Saharan zone, and importantly create new networks of researchers for future collaborations.

Attendees at the conference seated on stone benches outdoors

The programme was highly varied with the following papers:

  • Anne Haour What made Islamic Trade Distinctive, as Compared to Pre-Islamic Trade?
  • Judith Scheele The Invisible Pastoralists: Camel-Herding, Raiding and Saharan Trade and Settlement
  • David Mattingly et al. Market Day in Fazzan: Characterisation and Spatial Tracking in Early Saharan Trade
  • Sonja Magnavita Track and Trace. Archaeometric Approaches to the Study of Early Trans-Saharan Trade
  • Laure Dussubieux Glass Beads in the Trans-Saharan Trade
  • Sam Nixon The Economies and Cultures of the Trans-Saharan Gold Trade from Pre-Islamic Times to the Modern Era
  • Michel Bonifay Can we Speak of Pottery and Amphora ‘Import Substitution’ in Inland Regions of Roman Africa?
  • Anna Leone Pottery and Trade in North and Sub-Saharan Africa: The Distribution of North African Wares
  • Lise Bender-Jørgensen Textiles and Textile Trade in the First Millennium AD - Evidence from Egypt
  • Mamadou Cissé The Trans-Saharan Trade Connection with Gao (Mali) During the First Millennium
  • Andrew Wilson Saharan Exports to the Roman World
  • Mark Horton Ships of the Desert, Camels of the Ocean: Indian Ocean Perspectives on Trans-Saharan Trade