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Thursday 21st February 2019, 5.45pm
MBI Al Jaber Building, London Middle East Institute, SOAS

The Periplus, South Arabia and the Far-side Ports

Presented by Carl Phillips

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (Periplus Maris Erythraei) was a Greek text written in the mid-first Century AD by someone familiar with the trade then taking place in the western Indian Ocean. The goods that were traded are listed and the ports visited on both sides of the Red Sea, South Arabia, East Africa and beyond as far as India are described.

The first English translation of the Periplus was published at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this time British mariners were active in drawing detailed navigational charts and gathering information to facilitate the commercial ties between Britain and India and included, therefore, the same geographical area as described in the Periplus. There is clear evidence that the ancient travel guide, the Periplus, was scrutinized by those engaged in compiling the “modern” navigational charts, and as a result the precise locations of many of the places mentioned in the Periplus were determined for the first time.

By the end of the nineteenth century nearly all of the ancient places located along the coast of South Arabia had been identified and likewise some of the ports mentioned on the “Far-side” of the Gulf of Aden, along the coast of northern Somalia. In the proposed lecture, the circumstances and evidence that led to the identification of these ancient sites will be discussed and additional evidence from more recent archaeological surveys and excavations will also be presented.

Carl Phillips studied archaeology at Edinburgh University working on projects in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. After graduating in 1980, he first visited Arabia, working as an assistant to the archaeological adviser at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Sultanate of Oman. This was followed by participation on archaeological projects in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Between 1990 and 2000 he taught at UCL, Institute of Archaeology and during this period established field projects in Yemen and the UAE. Since 2000 he has been an associate researcher with UMR 7041 (Nanterre) and is currently a member of the research group APOHR (Archéologie du Proche-Orient Hellénistique et Romain). As part of the latter, he has taken part in projects centred on the Red Sea Farasan Islands.

More recently (2017), he has become interested in maritime links between South Arabia and the Horn of Africa and has conducted a short survey on part of the coast of Somaliland.

You can download a pdf flyer for this lecture.

A full schedule of forthcoming lectures is available here.

In order to reserve a seat for the lecture, please email as seating is limited.

Please note that the views expressed by the speakers in this lecture series should not be interpreted as views held by the MBI Al Jaber Foundation.



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