Plenary Speakers

Dr. Kristin Ilves Kristin Ilves

Kristin Ilves is an Assistant Professor in Maritime Archaeology at Helsinki University. She graduated as an archaeologist from Tartu University, Estonia, in 2001, and completed her MA studies (2004) there, before obtaining her PhD (2012) from Uppsala University, Sweden. Her background is in maritime archaeology, with special interests in the maritime cultural landscape studies. She is currently focusing in relating climate, environment, and culture change to each other and is particularly drawn to the construction of island identities. She has an extensive fieldwork experience and a fascination in the development of innovative techniques for the presentation of archaeological sites to public and professional audiences.

Prof. Himanshu Prabha Ray, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Himanshu Prabha Ray has degrees in Archaeology, Sanskrit and Ancient Indian History and teaches at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. In her research she adopts an inter-disciplinary approach for a study of the archaeology of religion in South Asia, this being evident in her most recent paper, “The Apsidal Shrine in Early Hinduism: Origins, Cultic Affiliation, Patronage”, World Archaeology, 36,3, 2004: 343-359. Her major publications include Monastery and Guild: Commerce under the Satavahanas, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986; The Winds of Change: Buddhism and the Maritime Links of Ancient South Asia, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994 (reissued as Oxford India Paperbacks, 1998, 2000); The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003 and edited volumes titled Tradition and Archaeology, New Delhi, Manohar, 1996 (with Jean-Francois Salles); Archaeology of Seafaring: The Indian Ocean in the Ancient Period, New Delhi, Indian Council of Historical Research Monograph I, 1999; Archaeology as History in Early South Asia, New Delhi, Aryan Books International, 2004 (with Carla Sinopoli).

Abstract: Where Ganga meets the sea: the fluvial network of Bengal

Bengal is known for its unique inland navigation system as the river Ganga meets the Brahmaputra and flows out to sea in a fan-shaped delta. The region is criss-crossed by streams making it one of the most fertile regions in the subcontinent, but also one that is densely populated. Wooden non-mechanised boats continue to ply the numerous streams carrying salt, grain and passengers, while the sea-going boats found in the Chittagong area, travel as far as Myanmar. A variety of watercraft carry goods and agricultural products to inland ports. The delta is fronted by the Sundarbans mangroves which are home to a diverse variety of wildlife. Thus, the importance of the inland navigation system in the economic and cultural life of the region is undeniable and continued even after rail links were established with Bengal around 1880s.

This fluvial network not only provided a distinctive environment throughout the early history of Bengal, but it also linked Bengal to the larger Ganga and Brahmaputra valley networks, on the one hand and the east coast and Bay of Bengal systems, on the other. How was this fluvial network conceptualized, prior to the emergence of its cartographic representation in the nineteenth century? What are the narratives and iconographic representations that help explain the cultural significance of the 2,500 kms long river Ganga that rises in the Himalayas and flows across large parts of north India before it reaches the sea in lower Bengal? How did the sanctity accorded to the river Ganga shape the cultural landscape of Bengal? These are the significant issues that this paper will address, to move the discussion beyond trade to maritime cultural landscapes.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Schäfer, University of Trier

Prof. Schäfer’s research activities are mainly on the subjects of the Hellenistic World, especially the legitimization of sovereignty of the successors of Alexander the Great and the time of the late Ptolemaic dynasty (Ptolemaios XII, Cleopatra VII), social and economic history, particularly of the Late Republican and Imperial Era and Late Antiquity, including the Migration Period. Prof. Schäfer is also a specialist on database-management and multimedial aspects of knowledge transfer. He is counted among leading experts in the field of experimental archaeology and the reconstruction and scientific analysis of ancient naval craft and is furthermore a renowned specialist of ancient trade and economy.

A special focus of Prof. Schäfer  is ancient seamanship. During the last decade Prof. Schäfer was especially drawn to the field of experimental archaeology by his extensive sailing experience and his familiarity with modern nautical equipment. A digital measuring system was further developed on the basis of the NX2-system, first developed Silva Marine Systems (today Silva Nexus).
These undertakings have resulted in a broad network of cooperation with well-known researchers in the natural and technical sciences and have pioneered new methods in measuring nautical data relevant to the investigation of ancient riverine trade routes, especially on the Rhine and Danube. Based on the archaeological discoveries in Oberstimm and Mainz, Prof. Schäfer has led research in and life size reconstruction of three individual military patrol vessels.

Prof. Dr. Karl Hofmann-von Kap-herr

Karl Hofmann-von Kap-herr is  professor of mechanical engineer at the Department of Technology at the University of Applied Sciences Trier. He is involved in several research projects, such as the interdisciplinary project “Roman ship“, with Christoph Schäfer . This project is a joint venture between Ancient History and Mechanical Engineering and part of the course of the Science Alliance Trier. 

Abstract:  Nautical Technology – Propulsion and Performance of Roman River Barges

It was not the slender oared military ships, the rather simple and far less attractive flat-bottomed ships with ramp-like bow and stern that formed the backbone of the Roman presence on the Rhine and its tributaries. Without them, the enormous quantities of building material needed e.g. for the expansion of Roman Cologne alone would never have reached the metropolis on the Rhine. Hundreds of thousands of tons had to be transported from the quarries in Norroy-les-Pont-à Mousson, Trier, Rheinbrohl, etc. All this could not be done by road, since a cart could only carry about one ton of cargo and land transport was neither to be afforded nor paid for.

After evaluating the written sources on the transport of goods, R. Duncan-Jones arrived at the following cost ratio of sea, river and land transport for the Roman Empire: 1 : 4.9 : 28-56. Transport on the sea and inland waterways was therefore already many times cheaper at that time.

It is the subject of a common project of ancient historians of the University of Trier, of mechanical engineers of the Technical University of Trier and of physicists of the TU Hamburg-Harburg as well as of the MIT in Massachusetts to examine the actual ratio of the expenditure for the transport on rivers as well as the different kinds of the drive of the river barges. A concrete example will be used to present the procedure for determining the performance of Roman barges.

Dr. Rik Van Gijn, Leiden University

Rik Van Gijn’s research focuses on the languages of South America, ranging from description to typology. His PhD (Radboud University Nijmegen) and subsequent DoBeS documentation project (MPI Nijmegen) focused on the description of Yurakaré, an isolate language spoken in central Bolivia. After that he carried out a comparative project on subordination strategies in the languages of South America and formed part of the Languages in Contact group of the Radboud University Nijmegen. Between 2012 and 2016 he formed part of a project at the University of Zurich, “Islands in an ocean of polysynthesis”, which aimed at describing and comparing languages in South America with respect to their morphological profile. From 2016 he is a part of the SNF Sinergia Project Linguistic Morphology in Time and Space, which studies the diachronic development of morphological structure in several different geographical and genealogical contexts. From 2019, he is a PI of an ERC Consolidator project “South American population history revisited: multidisciplinary perspectives on the Upper Amazon”.

He combines qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the interconnection between river systems and languages of South America. Together with his colleagues at the University of Zurich, he has proposed an approach to identify probable pathways of language diffusion along the Amazon River network, combining ideas from route planning (i.e. looking for possible routes of linguistic diffusion along the river network) and route inference (i.e. testing the possible routes against evidence from linguistic data). Their approach is not restricted to linguistic data alone, but is generally suitable to explore deep-time processes in space for which evidence is sparse and spatially-implicit.

Abatract:  Riverine features: the role of Amazonian river systems in shaping the linguistic landscape

There is ample evidence that river systems in Amazonia have influenced the social history of the area in the sense that they have been and continue to be the major pathways across the jungle that enable (long-distance) migration and contact between ethnolinguistic groups. While evidence from (plant and human) genetics, ethnology, and archaeology confirms the pivotal social role of rivers, linguistic evidence is somewhat more inconclusive: although language family expansions and contact area formation are often connected to particular river systems, these connections are often vague and impressionistic.

In this talk I will zoom in on a number of studies that I carried out in collaboration with several colleagues aimed at assessing more precisely the role of river systems in Amazonia (and beyond) in shaping the linguistic landscape by looking at the distribution of linguistic structural features. Although these studies have provided no definitive answer yet, they have provided some answers, and, more importantly, they have provided clues to asking better, more precise questions, and how to go about answering these more precise questions.

I will discuss the results of the aforementioned studies and the lessons learnt from them. On the basis of these lessons, I outline a new approach to the question and discuss some of the preliminary results that we have achieved in this direction.

Dr. Crystal El Safadi, University of Southampton

Crystal El Safadi is a Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton. With an interest in GIS and other technologies, I am a fierce advocate for modern practices that unite digital and archaeological research. Under the guidance of Dr Fraser Sturt, I currently undertake research that involves theory and fieldwork on the topic of maritime prehistory. The role involves computational modelling, scientific diving and instructing Masters and Undergrad students.

Prior to this, I have worked as an Archaeologist, GIS Specialist, Research Technician and a Geophysical Specialists. These employments have not only afforded me the experience of working within a number of countries, namely Lebanon, Cyprus, Spain, Bulgaria, France, Oman and the U.K. but also, to work across disciplines and specialisations i.e. terrestrial, maritime and desktop-based research. Most recently, as a Research Technician (2016-2017), I have been working alongside Dr Jesse Ransley on a project entitled Writing Honor: The Levant and the History of Archaeological Ideas about Seascapes.

Qualifications include an MSc in Archaeological Computing-Spatial Technologies (2012-2013), an MA in Maritime Archaeology (2013-2014) and a PhD in Archaeology (2014-2018). My doctoral thesis focused on maritime activities during the Early Bronze Age within the Levant. It identified the complexity of analysing the past through the lens of a modern geographical understanding and offered an alternate mapping concept, to which we may engage playfully with the past.

Ultimately, this concept of ‘playful engagement’ is that which drives the research I undertake. I am drawn to powerful concepts that can contribute to the shaping and reshaping of the world; I am interested in questions that may challenge conventional narratives and I am eager to support others to do the same.

Abstract: Digital approaches to maritime landscapes of transport and mobility

Human engagement with the sea takes on a multitude of forms, yet one form has been vital to the shaping of the world as we know it today, that is mobility, in other words transportation and navigation across water-bodies. In many cases, maritime landscapes of transport can leave behind a record of entities including transit points, harbours, ports, seamarks, itineraries, etc. In other cases, however, these aspects and landscapes are largely unknown and must be implicitly derived from available evidence.

With increasing technological developments and interdisciplinary research, the maritime world, oceans, seas, rivers and their affordances are no longer inaccessible. The availability of marine data, paleogeographic reconstructions, along with modelling and computational approaches have added a depth to our studies of maritime landscapes of transport and transit points. It enabled an alternative investigation, one that incorporates the environmental, material and cognitive facets.

This paper explores the range of technological and digital applications to the reconstruction and understanding of maritime landscapes of mobility and the location of transit points in prehistory through two case studies. The first focuses on the Levantine Basin in the Mediterranean during the Early Bronze Age Period, whilst the second investigates Neolithic maritime mobility across the north-western seaways of Europe. These two case-studies embed landscapes and zones of transport in their wider environmental context and showcase the importance of digital approaches to their study.

Dr. Minna Koikivikko Minna Koivikko

Minna Koivikko is a maritime archaeologist,  working at the Finnish Heritage Agency as an intendant. During 1990´s, she studied at the University of Helsinki. Koivikko majored in archaeology and she completed her master’s thesis that dealt with underwater dwelling places from the Stone Age at the Lake Saimaa. Her PhD concentrated on recycling of ships at UNESCO world heritage site Suomenlinna, which is an 18th century fortress islands in front of Helsinki. Helsinki University approved her dissertation with honours in 2017. From 2007 onwards, she has been part of the staff of the Finnish Heritage Agency (previously The National Board of Antiquities). Koivikko is a certificated research diver (AESD, Advanced European Scientific Diver). When she took the degree in 1995, she in fact became one of the first scientific divers in Finland. Koivikko is still an active diver, and her work takes her to different locations in Finland. Her special interest are human behaviour, recycling and climate change, and to improve interpretations.

Tel. +358 40 295 33 6215,

Abstract: The last voyage, ship abandonment in their home ports

Transition zones, where sea meets the river or land, can easily become a landscape of abandonment, which is today most visible in the bottom of the sea or a lake. For example, during the Gold Rush in Yukon, Alaska, it was more than typical to cross water areas with cheap and quickly built vessels, which were easy to be abandoned when the journey continued further inland. These type of exceptional times can allow people to behave untypically, however, ports and city harbours are typically areas of watercraft abandonment.
Abandoning is giving up resources, and this type of behavior needs further analysing. Why usable ships were left to rotten in harbours, creating complainings, ultimatums and cases in the court. Merchants used to organise the last sailing vouyage with their ships into their home ports. It seems that for example in 18th century Helsinki, these ships soon became spikes in common eyes, and owners were forced to move them elsewhere. Sometimes they sank, intentionally or unintentionally, and are discovered as wrecks by maritime archaeologists decades later. My doctoral dissertation (Koivikko 2017) was dealing with recycling ships in Suomenlinna, 18th century fortress islands in front of Helsinki. It was a military environment in the past. The aim of my presentation is to compare this data to the city of Helsinki, and other cities around the Baltic Sea, to be able to grasp the key elements of ship abandonment in harbours.