Program Fall 2021

Events for Fall 2021 (Sep-Dec)

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18th October 11:00-12:30 in Helsinki and Israel, 17:00-18:30 in London

A Japanese Domestic Freighter Lost Circa 1700

With Prof. Akifumi Iwabuchi,  Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (Japan)

The wooden shipwreck of a domestic freighter was discovered at the depth of 20m off of Hatsushima island in front of Atami city, eastern Japan.  Since 2010 Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT) and the Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology (ARIUA) have conducted underwater archaeological survey and historical research on the wreck, with the help of ARIUA scientific divers, TUMSAT graduate students, foreign volunteer archaeologists, and self-made AUV or ROV.  The original vessel carried roof tiles to Edo castle or grinding bowls from western Japan, many of which are scattered on the seabed, and its pine wood hull is still half-buried.  According to the typological analysis on its cargo, this freighter seems to have been lost circa 1700.  Because the cargo of roof tiles is always in danger of being stolen by treasure-hunters, TUMSAT and ARIUA have recovered some outstanding gargoyle roof tiles, having installed their accurate replicas as substitute on the seabed.

Akifumi Iwabuchi is Professor of Maritime Anthropology and Nautical Archaeology at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, which is a member institution of the UNESCO UNITWIN Network for Underwater Archaeology.  He is the ICOMOS-ICUCH National Representative for Japan, a Vice-President of the Japan Society for Nautical Research, and a Director of the Asian Research Institute of Underwater Archaeology at Fukuoka.  He received his DPhil form the University of Oxford in 1990. On the basis of fieldworks conducted in Southeast and East Asia, the South Seas, and Europe, he has published numerous articles and books, which deal mainly with insular ethnic groups and their material culture or colonial history, including The People of the Alas Valley or Cultural Heritage under the Sea that is the first comprehensive introductory book of underwater archaeology and the 2001 UNESCO Convention in the Japanese language.

Images: courtesy of Akifumi Iwabuchi

  • Host: Veronica Walker Vadillo

1st of November, 14:00-16:00 in HKL, 13:00-15:00 in Paris

Environmental Humanities Month: Taking Historical Ecology to Administrators and Policy Makers

With Prof. Em. Carole Crumley, Executive Director of the History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE), University of North Carolina/ Uppsala University


How can the ongoing disintegration of ecosystems be halted, and these critical systems be rehabilitated? For scholars, the action list is long: increase the pool of expertise by engaging all relevant knowledge communities, collect rapidly disappearing data, analyze with both familiar and new methods, and apply the results of actionable science to policy and practice. This complex and urgent activity requires an integrated research framework with the flexibility to accommodate the global diversity of places, peoples, and processes and to examine future options. The seminar will focus on how practitioners could adjust practice to improve access to policy makers.

Carole Crumley is a founding scientist in the area of historical ecology and has written the first text book in this subject, Historical Ecology: Cultural Knowledge and Changing Landscapes (1994). Carole Crumley’s special areas of interest are epistemology of complex adaptive systems, especially as regards human societies; “Two Cultures”  (science/humanities) problems in inter- and transdisciplinary research; integrated global- to local-scale historical ecology; historical climate change; evolution of landscapes; social inequality; social memory; geomatics (e.g., GIS, RS) applications in anthropology, ecology, and planning. Her research interests focus on Western Europe, where she directs a long-running research project (1975-present), and pursued with her students, in Burgundy, France.  The research traces the history of agriculture and industry in a key European region over a three thousand year period, using archaeology, historical documents and maps, ethnography, and environmental data in a GIS database.  The project’s ethnographic component is large, and is focused on the practice of contemporary agro-pastoralism in the contexts of a rapidly changing global market and a complex regulatory environment (e.g., the EU Common Agricultural Policy, French regulations).

Carole is also Executive Director of the international project Integrated History and Future of People on Earth (IHOPE), which uses a complex systems framework and the tools of historical ecology to integrate knowledge of past human societies with knowledge of past biophysical conditions.  This integrated analysis enables modeling old-and-new possibilities for a sustainable planetary and human future. IHOPE is a global network of researchers and research projects; its International Program Office (IPO) is based at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Images: courtesy of Carole Crumley

  • Host: Veronica Walker Vadillo

15th of November,  14:00-16:00 in HKL, 13:00-15:00 in Paris

Skippers and entrepreneurs: The shipmasters of pre-modern Insular Southeast Asia

With Prof. Em. Pierre-Yves Manguin, École française d’Extrême-Orient


Shipmasters played a crucial role in long distance exchange networks of Asian seas, as evidenced by early historic and medieval epigraphic and textual sources. In Insular Southeast Asia, their action is moreover intimately associated with the state formation process of coastal polities. Between the 5th and the 18th century, their position is documented in local epigraphy, as well as in Malay, Chinese, Arabic and Indian textual sources. Owners of trading ships and investors in part of their cargoes, these “masters of the ship” appeared under designations of various origins, which all partook of one single semantic field: mahānavika (Sanskrit), puhawang (Austronesian), nakhoda (Arabo-Persian). In the Malay World, they belonged to a high status, non-noble class; alongside the “sea merchants”, they formed a social group that connected local political power to networks of overseas relationships and exchange, the very foundation of the merchant economy of coastal polities. Their distinct position in complex societies of Insular Southeast Asia makes them essential agents in the mainstream and early globalisation of Asian seas.

Speaker’s bio

Pierre-Yves Maguin is an emeritus professor and researcher at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). His research is on the history of the sea front of pre-modern Southeast Asia, and more specifically on the study of the merchant networks in the China Seas and in the Indian Ocean, of their role in the constitution of political systems and of urbanization. During the course of various research actions, he has also studied the perceptions that coastal societies have of their history and their maritime environment, through the study of their vocabulary and their representations. He participated in a multidisciplinary research program on the population dynamic in Sumatra.

At first based solely on written documents, his work began, starting in the 1980s, to draw more and more heavily on archaeology to fill in the blanks of the missing historical data. These archaeological dig programs, conducted in cooperation with Indonesian and Vietnamese researchers, were focused both on the merchant ships and the port cities of these two countries.

He thus directed archaeological missions in Sumatra on the port sites of the Sriwijaya period (7th to 13th centuries), as well as new explorations of these sites in 2010 and 2011. These research projects enabled him to finally prove beyond a doubt that G. Coedès had been right in placing the capital of Sriwijaya in Palembang. Above all, they contributed to the establishment of a solid chronology for the history of this great maritime State and helped prove that the tradition of the merchant cities of insular Southeast Asia dates back to the first millennium of the CE. This research then turned to the port site of Oc Eo, in the Mekong delta (1st to 7th centuries). Finally, up until 2007, he led a program on the Batujaya and Cibuaya sites (1st to 7th centuries), in West Java. These last two programs are focused on better understanding a period of Southeast Asian history that has been overlooked up until now, and during which the first political systems of the region, based on long-distance exchanges, are developed and progressively adopt cultural models imported from India.

Images: courtesy of Pierre-Yves Manguin

  • Host: Veronica Walker Vadillo

29th November 11:00-12:30 in Helsinki and Israel, 12:00-13:30 in London

WW2 Submarine Wrecks in the Eastern Mediterranean (1939–1945)

With Dr. Federico Ugolini, The Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies, Haifa (Israel)

Conflict archaeology has recently been the subject of much scholarly attention. An appreciable number of submarine wrecks have been identified in the Eastern Mediterranean since 1943, some in deep waters, thanks to the growing use of advanced underwater technologies, as well as to the work of professional divers, and some off coast, where underwater surveys have been undertaken. Nevertheless, little attention has been paid to these wrecks: despite being a key watercraft during WWII, submarine wrecks have neither been included in studies of maritime archaeology and history, nor considered for digital humanities and mapping purposes. Taking a region-wide approach, this preliminary study explores WWII submarine wrecks sunk in the Aegean, Ionian, Libyan and Levantine Seas in the Eastern Mediterranean, to provide a basis for an overall catalogue of all known submarine wrecks from 1939–1945, building on the seminal works of Giorgerini (2002), and the database from Helgason (1995), which aimed at categorizing submarines from Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom, in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. This study will provide the basis for a broader project that aims to create a database containing over 1,500 WWII submarine wrecks.

Federico Ugolini is Federico Ugolini received a PhD in Roman Archaeology from King’s College London. His research interests include ancient harbor archaeology, with a focus on the Adriatic region, shipwrecks and seafaring, as well as ancient iconography and antiquarian reception. More recently he investigated the dynamics of iconography and visual reception of maritime cityscapes in the Mediterranean and their symbolic meaning in antiquity, which is the topic of his monograph ‘Visualizing Harbours in the Classical World. Iconography and Representation around the Mediterranean’, published by Bloomsbury. He was research associate at the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, and staff member of the Portus Project excavation. During his postdoctoral research fellowship, Federico will conduct research on the port system of the Northern Adriatic basin and its network of coastal and rural settlements in the Roman period (200 BCE – 300 CE), as well as on dedicated research activities of the Ancient Ship Lab.

Images: courtesy of Federi Ungolini

  • Host: Emilia Mataix Ferrandiz

13th of December, 14:00-16:00 in Helsinki, 12:00-14:00 in London

Water for Seafarers: Demand, Accessibility and Safety

With Prof. Em. Dionisius Agius, University of Exeter

In this presentation I will talk about freshwater demand and availability in sea towns and on board the dhow from medieval and modern reports on travel in the western Indian Ocean. The main question to ask is: How was water provision organized and managed?

Freshwater provision was naturally of great concern to seafarers. The problem was not its lack but more its availability. Geographers of Medieval Islam mention ports and anchorages where wells are found but although water was pure in some, in others it was undrinkable. Also mentioned by European travellers of the Early Modern Age and more recent oral historical research rainwater captured in cisterns although sometimes it turned brackish. It was the captain’s responsibility to provide water on board the dhow; however, when water was stored in metal or wooden containers it often turned bad while in glass or earthenware containers, it held better. Merchants and pilgrims took no chances, they carried waterskins on board but even so, when water was in short supply the atmosphere on board became tense and unpleasant. The unbearable heat of the day and the mosquitoes at night made things worse as fights among passengers broke out causing havoc and distress. On pearling voyages, rationing of water was enforced by the captain on divers and haulers, providing three cups a day, a restriction that could lead to ill-health or death. In general, when water became scarce the captain had to make provision to anchor at a port instructing sailors to fetch water from the town. However, some narratives recount incidents of passengers on board the dhow being robbed by nomads while the crew was on shore. Such incidents must have been nightmarish for seafarers particularly those who were experiencing travel for the first and only time in their lives because of pilgrimage.

The written and oral accounts do shed light on the life of seafarers when water provision was lacking but it is left to our imagination to fully comprehend how severe the situation must have been when waters ran dry, and seafarers had to suffer extreme privation.


Dionisius Agius is an Arabist, philologist, and ethnographer specializing in the maritime landscapes of the Islamicate world with a focus on the material culture and heritage, and the medieval Arabic cultural geography of the Western Indian Ocean. I have conducted extensive maritime fieldwork on the coasts of the Arabian Gulf and Oman between 1990 and 2000, and the African and Arabian coasts of the Red Sea from 2002 to present.

Pioneering dhow studies his research uses multiple methods or data sources in extensive archival material and archaeological finds establishing a historical, geographical, and cultural pattern of the life of a maritime people in a unique multi-disciplinary series of research outputs


New Book by Prof. Agius out now!

The Life of the Red Sea Dhow: A Cultural History of Seaborne Exploration in the Islamic World (hardback & paperback 2019). I offer a wide-ranging cultural history of the iconic dhow based on primary and secondary sources together with ethnographic fieldwork on the African and Arabian coasts of the Red Sea.  While the history of global and seafaring exploration is more popular than ever, seaborne discovery from Islamicate lands remains an understudied subject.  Whether discussing trade routes; shoals and wind patterns; harvest seasons; litanies and votive offerings to the sea; or the deep and resonant connection between language, memory and oral tradition, this is the first book to place the dhow in its full and remarkable cultural contexts.

Images: courtesy of Dionisius Agius

  • Host: Veronica Walker Vadillo