Trans-Saharans 2015: Mobile Technologies

Conference report

Two delegates during a discussionThe conference, which was held in Leicester between the 20th and 22nd April 2015, drew upon the discussion of pre-circulated draft papers on a range of themes important to technology and technology transfer. Papers on irrigation, animals, weaving, workshop remains, and inorganic archaeological materials (glass, metals, pottery) were written and presented by experts working in a number of regions both within and neighbouring the Sahara. In addition, the conference featured two workshops on significant materials-related subjects. These were: a) handmade pottery in the Sahara and surrounding regions; b) the recognition, quantification and meaning of metals and glass recycling in archaeology.

The conference was opened with the discussion of a paper drafted by Mario Liverani, in which we considered the themes of technology transfer, diffusionism, and the difference in archaeological visibility of various technologies (particularly those from the sub-Saharan zones). Themes which cross-cut many papers included the meaning, mechanisms, and direction of technology transfer; the effects of different production methodologies on the chemistry and microstructure of materials, and how this affects concepts such as provenance; and diffusion versus independent invention of technologies. Other interesting issues which were raised included that of technological 'lags' or 'dead ends'; the contribution of ethnography; and the entanglement of different technologies.

Delegates at the conference

The following papers made up the programme for the conference:

  • Mario Liverani Technological Innovations Transfer through the Hyper-Arid Belt
  • Maria C. Gatto, Anne Haour and Kevin MacDonald Garamantian Handmade Pottery: Technological Change and Stylistic Exchange in a Trans-Saharan Perspective
  • Andrew Wilson, David Mattingly and Martin Sterry The Distribution of Foggara Irrigation in the Sahara in Antiquity: Settlement, Trade and Migration
  • B. Tyr Fothergill, Veerle Linseele and Silvia Valenzuela Movement and Management of Animals in the North and West of Africa from 1000 BC to AD 1000
  • Thilo Rehren and Daniela Rosenow Two Millennia of Glassmaking in Egypt
  • Chloe N. Duckworth and Thomas Fenn Shattering Illusions: Using Analytical Evidence to Establish Clearer Pictures of Glass Production and Trade within Africa
  • Peter Robertshaw Glass Beads in African Society: Beyond Chemistry and Provenience
  • Jane Humphris Meroe Royal City within a Trans-Saharan Landscape
  • Aurelie Cuenod Metalworking in pre-Islamic North Africa: A View from the Garamantian Oases
  • Caroline Robion-Brunner What is the Meaning of the Extreme Variability of Ancient Ironworking in West Africa? A Comparison Between Three Case Studies
  • Thomas Fenn and David Killick Trans-Saharan Movements of Metals and Metallurgical Technology, Late Antiquity to the Middle AgesTouatia Amraoui Crafts in Roman North Africa: Technical Transfer and Permanence
  • Sonja Magnavita The Early History of Weaving in West Africa