Postgraduate Research Archaeology Symposium

Zeeshan A. Shaikh (2016)

Keywords: Ancient Navigation, Roman, Sailors, Wind, Red Sea.


Archaeological findings from sites along the Egyptian Red Sea coast, such as Myos Hormos and Berenike, have shown that there was a well-established ongoing trade and navigation activities in the Erythraean Sea during Roman times. The impact of these navigation activities can be seen as far as East Africa and Southern India. Much has been written regarding their trading relationships, the commodities they traded and the trade routes they used but hardly anything is known about the actual voyages they undertook. What navigation methods and skills they used to undertook such voyages, especially in the absence of the most basic technology such as modern compass and Geographic Positioning System that was very much responsible for this early form of globalisation?

The research conundrum of this study is to address the very core activity of this established trade network by asking how ancient seafarers of the Erythraean Sea navigated. What were the different techniques, methods and skills ancient mariners used to navigate across the sea in order to carry out a trade? By using various ancient and modern sources from archaeological, historical, meteorological, natural and environmental and through multidisciplinary approach this study argues that the ancient sailors of the Erythraean Sea were competent navigators with remarkable experiential navigational skills that allowed them to cross the vast sea in the absence of modern technology. Along with providing a general overview of the thesis this presentation will specifically focus on the wind as one of the cue for ancient navigation and planning in the Erythraean Sea.