From tree to plank: A multidisciplinary approach to the study of wood use in boatbuilding in the Red Sea
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
The reason for the embargo is to have sufficient time for revisions and reviews to publish my monograph into a book.
This thesis looks at the use of wood in boatbuilding in the Red Sea from classical antiquity until present times. It draws on primary sources and archaeological evidence from the Graeco-Roman period extending from the 8th century BC to the eve of Islam in the 7th century AD, and from the medieval Islamic period stretching from the 7th century AD to the 15th century AD. In doing so, it seeks to shed the light on timber trade and the timber exploitation processes; and examine how these were interlinked with the geopolitics and socio-economics of the time. It then portrays the Red Sea areas not only as wood importers from a wide array of regions such as the Mediterranean, East Africa, and South Asia, but also as beneficiaries of local wood resources for their boatbuilding needs. In that respect, it stresses that little attention has been given to the exploitation of local woods in favour of a greater reliance on Indian timber, and more specifically on teak. Thus, it suggests the need to consider other timber species than teak which were equally suitable for shipwrightry, as well as other western Indian Ocean wood providers. To illuminate and colour past interpretations of the subject, in addition to document a vanishing craftsmanship, this thesis has drawn on ethnographic research in Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The ethnographic enquiry focused on the types of timber used in boatbuilding in the Red Sea and their vernacular names, the timber exploitation processes, and the factors and variables that come play in the metamorphosis of a tree into a boat part. Finally, by interlinking diverse pathways of enquiry drawing on primary sources, archaeology and ethnography, this thesis aims to provide the field of maritime culture and maritime archaeology a deeper understanding of wooden boatbuilding in the Red Sea.
Agius, Dionisius A.
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies