Scholarly preoccupations and much of the available evidence have tended to emphasise the Islamic era as the historic time period when the Mediterranean seaboard was firmly and regularly connected with the Sub-Saharan zone across the Sahara. Recent research in southern Libya suggests that there was a significantly higher level of Trans-Saharan trade and contact in the pre-Islamic period than hitherto recognised. The existence of an early state, contemporary with the Roman Empire, in the Central Sahara can be demonstrated from the archaeological remains of the Garamantes of the Libyan region of Fazzan. Their technological sophistication in terms of irrigated agriculture, urban settlements, mastery of pyrotechnical processes and manufacturing achievements in textiles and beadmaking are all quite remarkable. It is already clear that their population comprised a mixture of Sub-Saharan and Mediterranean African types and there is indisputable evidence that they traded with both the Mediterranean and Sub-Saharan zones. This has profound implications for understanding the nature and effects of human contact in the Trans-Saharan zone. The grant is sought to allow the research programme in Fazzan to be taken to the next level of analysis, enabling explicit comparisons and contrasts to be drawn with contemporary societies to north and south of the Sahara. Key themes to be explored include trade, human migration, technological processes and transfers, urbanisation and state formation. Equally crucial, the chronological scope of the project will be extended into the Islamic period, in order to understand how things differed then from the earlier phases of Trans-Saharan contact.
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