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The University of Southampton
Archaeology Part of Humanities

Going Glocal: Innovation and Tradition in the Shell-First Boatbuilding Traditions of the Sudanese Nile Seminar

1 June 2017
John Wymer Lab Building 65a Faculty of Humanities Avenue Campus

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Ing-Marie Back Danielsson at .

Event details

This seminar is part of the Archaeology Seminar Series

What constitutes a boatbuilding 'tradition'? A small number of boatbuilders in Sudan continue to build larger Nile riverboats using shell-first techniques and locally available Acacia nilotica wood in a manner that can be traced back through the modern period, and which also closely echoes pharaonic-era approaches to boat building known from neighbouring Egypt. A changing socio-economic climate, together with road infrastructure development, has significantly reduced demand for these vessels, threatening their future. In the meantime, however, local builders are adopting radically new—yet strikingly similar—approaches to boat building. These adopt newly available imported materials, such as pre-cut pine planks and even oil barrels, to build boats that meet the on-going needs of Nile fishermen. Yet they persist, despite their radical material departure, in following a shell-first ‘concept’. These findings remind us that aspects of tradition—in the sense of a learned technical approach—can persist amid radical material and socio-economic disruption. They also persuade us, as maritime archaeologists and ethnographers, that the scope of our boatbuilding research should not be circumscribed by a sentimental attachment to the old, the quasi-indigenous, and the wooden.

All welcome.

Speaker information

Dr John P Cooper , University of Exeter. Lecturer in Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture

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