On Monday the 2nd of October, I flew out to Rome to deliver a paper at a symposium entitled “A Marginalised Sea: Indigenous Cultures and Trade Systems in the Red Sea” (October 3rd-5th 2017). This was held at the Danish Academy in Rome (Det Danske Institut i Rom). The purpose of the conference was to understand the Red Sea region in its own terms and to give a focus to the indigenous peoples of the area. It was important for each of the speakers to give a focus to the indigenous peoples and not to subordinate them to narratives which focus solely on wider geopolitical event. The main historical focus was on the period from 300 BCE – 1000 CE, which saw the highest degree of external domination in the literature.


The conference consisted of two days of research presentations, followed by a half-day workshop on the ‘state of the art’ of Red Sea scholarship.There were a range of papers and topics covered during the conference, including evidence for Meroetic involvement (or lack thereof) in the Indian Ocean trade, to the importance of local maritime fishing communities in the Red Sea.

My paper topic focused on the indigenous peoples of the Eastern Desert region in the first to third centuries CE, and in particular how they responded and impacted upon the Red Sea trade. The paper explored how acts of violence on the one hand, and cooperation on the other, impacted on the ability of merchants from the Roman world to engage in the Indian Ocean trade. While the trip was something of a flying visiting – most of the site seeing was done on the taxi rides to and from the airport – it was nevertheless, very enjoyable.

It was a great opportunity to attend the conference, listen to the various papers, and engage in really stimulating discussions.

To find out more about the conference, speakers and events, please see the following link:

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