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The northern coast of the Black Sea has produced an abundance of documentary texts dating from the sixth through fourth centuries BC. Of great value to the epigraphist and historian are dozens of Greek letters, receipts and curses inscribed on lead and ceramic media. When placed in dialogue with one another, these texts yield new insights into daily life and literacy in communities for which literary sources are scant or absent. They document the bustling trade in saltfish, enslaved persons and textiles, and the web of relations between Greek and non-Greek individuals in north Pontic cities, from marriage to commercial ties with indigenous groups of the Pontic interior. This article demonstrates how trade could drive literacy in non-elite communities of the northern Black Sea. Literacy and mercantile activity were very much entwined, and developed in parallel with one another and with other civic and social institutions within these port communities.
The Empire of Aksum was one of Africa's most influential ancient civilisations. Traditionally, most archaeological fieldwork has focused on the capital city of Aksum, but recent research at the site of Beta Samati has investigated a contemporaneous trade and religious centre located between Aksum and the Red Sea. The authors outline the discovery of the site and present important finds from the initial excavations, including an early basilica, inscriptions and a gold intaglio ring. From daily life and ritual praxis to international trade, this work illuminates the role of Beta Samati as an administrative centre and its significance within the wider Aksumite world.