The Maritime Context of the Trans-Mediterranean—Indian Ocean Trade: Critical Review of Roman Era Vessels of the Red Sea

In: Human Interaction with the Environment in the Red Sea

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Abstract

Despite a great deal of research undertaken by historians, archaeologists and other maritime scholars, there remains a rather poor understanding of the design and construction of ships that sailed the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in antiquity. Similarly, there are few indications as to whether any unifying features existed that made them particularly suited to sailing in monsoonal conditions or within enclosed sea basins, or both. This kind of information is important to gain a deeper understanding of the types of boats used to carry cargo over long-distance trade routes in these pioneering times, early on in the shift to a globalised economy. It could also provide indirect evidence for port and harbour infrastructure available along these routes. This paper will evaluate the current state of knowledge concerning the types of vessels that plied the Red Sea and Indian Ocean trade routes from the Ptolemaic to the Roman period.

Human Interaction with the Environment in the Red Sea

Selected Papers of Red Sea Project VI