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Egyptology in Switzerland was strongly influenced by Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of the country. It was equally influenced by the country’s consequent administrative and political reorganisation. Switzerland thus did not acquire museum collections through large-scale, state-supported, archaeological expeditions, as did some other European countries. Instead, its antiquities collections are largely the result of patronage and donations made during the nineteenth century. The first Egyptian coffin to arrive in Switzerland, for example, was purchased by the politician Karl Müller von Friedberg (1755–1836) and given to the Stiftsbibliothek in the city of St-Gallen. Nor did Switzerland establish research institutes in countries in which it had interests, as did certain other European countries. The fact that the research focus of Swiss universities and their various archaeological entities was directed by the cantons (states), rather than at confederal level, also meant that it was individuals, rather than institutions, that were the driving force of Swiss Egyptology.
The ancient Sahara has often been treated as a periphery or barrier, but this agenda-setting book – the final volume of the Trans-Saharan Archaeology Series – demonstrates that it was teeming with technological innovations, knowledge transfer, and trade from long before the Islamic period. In each chapter, expert authors present important syntheses, and new evidence for technologies from oasis farming and irrigation, animal husbandry and textile weaving, to pottery, glass and metal making by groups inhabiting the Sahara and contiguous zones. Scientific analysis is brought together with anthropology and archaeology. The resultant picture of transformations in technologies between the third millennium BC and the second millennium AD is rich and detailed, including analysis of the relationship between the different materials and techniques discussed, and demonstrating the significance of the Sahara both in its own right and in telling the stories of neighbouring regions.
This chapter introduces the larger themes of the volume. Connections and barriers within the Trans-Saharan region (and the interrelationship between these two aspects) form one focus. The introduction presents an overview of crucial themes and considerations which cross-cut all or many of the contributions. Fundamentally, this book seeks to explore what defines technology, how technological knowledge spreads and how technological change has happened in Saharan societies. After reviewing how the Sahara serves as a linking space for the wider Trans-Saharan region, the chapter discusses broad issues of technological mobility and transfers and foregrounds the coming discussing on issues relating to farming technology (plants and animals), textiles (further discussed in Part II), metals (Part III), glass (Part IV) and pottery (Part V).
This chapter first reviews the evidence for metal and metalworking recovered in Fazzan (Libyan Sahara) and presents the results of an analytical program carried out by the Trans-SAHARA Project. This evidence is then considered in relation to other Saharan, North African and West African sites dating from a similar period. The Garamantes seem to have used both copper alloys and iron for ornamental as well as utilitarian purposes. Chemical analysis of the copper-base fragments indicates that at least part of the metal was imported from the Roman world. However, the recovery at Garamantian sites of a certain amount of metalworking debris (slag, hearths and ingot moulds) dating to the second half of the first millennium BC to the beginning of the first millennium AD, shows that metal was also worked and transformed in the oases. Moreover, evidence for trade and possible shared technological choices between Fazzan and sites on the southern edge of the desert is starting to emerge. These choices would have been influenced by environmental constraints such as the scarcity of fuel and copper ores and impacted by the entanglement of metallurgy with other technologies such as agriculture.
The concluding discussion in this chapter addresses several issues. In the first place it draws together the threads of discussion that run through the individual chapters relating to the nature of technology and technological transfer in the Sahara. It reflects on ‘what is a mobile technology?’, ‘how to study technology in the Sahara’, ‘difficulties and solutions’ and ‘connections’. The second half of the chapter broadens the discussion to consider further the implications of Saharan technology transfer in relation to the ‘and beyond’ part of our title. Finally, it examines some of the ramifications of the combined results of the four volumes of the Trans-Saharan Archaeology series for archaeologists, historians and related researchers. It presents some ideas about how the conclusions of this series offer a fresh perspective on the Trans-Saharan region and necessitate a fundamental reshaping of future agendas of study of the ancient Sahara and beyond.