NetWood : Wood Networks in Egypt from Antiquity to Islamic times

31 octobre 2019
Appel à communication
Institut of Archaeology, University College of London
18-19 juin 2020

Le colloque international "NetWood : Wood Networks in Egypt from Antiquity to Islamic times" est organisé par G. Eschenbrenner-Diemer (Marie Curie Fellowship (UCL)/UMR 7041, ArScAN), J. Auber de Lapierre (EPHE), V. Schram (Collège de France) et R. Seignobos (Ifao)

Il se tiendra à l’University College of London les 18 et 19 juin 2020.

Les dépôts de candidature sont à faire avant le 31 octobre 2019

Les propositions de communication (400 mots maximum) sont à envoyer, en français ou en anglais, à l’adresse suivante :
Le texte devra être accompagné d’une courte présentation de l’auteur avec titre et institution de rattachement.
Chaque communication se fera en 20 mns suivie de 10 mns de discussion


The “NetWood” conference aims to study in a diachronic and transdisciplinary way the economic and social networks around the use of wood in Egypt and Nubia from the Predynastic to the Ottoman period (AD 1914).

Different local wood species are available in Egypt. However, the power imports certain species absent from its territory, in particular coniferous wood and ebony wood, to meet its needs but also to materialize its power within and outside Egypt. In Egyptological studies, research into every aspect of wood has seen renewed intensity in recent years, from species identification and distribution, to the uses and crafting of the material. Nevertheless, disciplinary compartmentalization still too often constitute a barrier to communications – the only way to solve aporias and broaden views. In this research environment, it is all the more crucial to take advantage of this new convergence of interest, to compare the latest research findings and to question preconceived ideas. The sources available have never been so numerous, and the prospects opened up by each approach are as varied as they are complementary. Therefore, the dialogue between related disciplines,
from language science to archaeobotany, and the mutual illumination of material and textual sources are set out as methodological principles here. This interdisciplinary approach is indeed a prerequisite for the diachronic analysis of the various issues related to wood exploitation, whether economic, cultural or landscape.

1. Identification of species : Egyptian and foreign wood

One of the priorities of this symposium is to work on the future realization of a diachronic list of the main species exploited in Egypt, which will present the woods under the dual aspect of the botanical nomenclature and the vernacular name in use in the different languages of the textual sources, from ancient Egyptian to Arabic language. While this type of reference list is available for the Pharaonic period, studies are not numerous for later periods,
thus preventing us from understanding the phenomena of continuity or rupture from one period to the next. Moreover, the evolution of wood analysis methods raises doubts over certain identifications proposed in the 20th century concerning the woods of Pharaonic Egypt. Simultaneously, the multiplication of archaeobotanical studies on sites from the Greco-Roman and Islamic periods continues to extend the reference corpus. The latter provides unprecedented support for the examination of textual sources, which requires dealing with changes in denomination that are sometimes difficult to reconcile from one language to another – or even, within the same language, from one region or era to another. In the light of the most recent research data, the diachronic and transdisciplinary coherence of the proposed identifications will therefore have to be reviewed.

In this context, for both local and imported wood, contributions with recent findings on a particular species are encouraged. To give two examples, the importance of cedar may plausibly be revalued downwards, while the use and availability of Mimusops laurifolia (Forsk.) Friis (persea, shwab) are difficult to evaluate after the 6th century AD. In general, any study on the identification
of species exploited after the Arab conquest – particularly in the texts – is particularly welcome, as is the presentation of any dataset from clear archaeological contexts.

2. Wood circulation : production, distribution and consumption
(raw material)

The economic wood networks will be examined in the light of the archaeological and textual data that will be presented at this conference. The aim will be to understand the reasons – pragmatic or cultural – that govern the selection of species. The contribution of sources outside Egypt that would make it possible to provide significant information on the origin of imported wood would be particularly welcome. With regard to local species, we will consider with the greatest interest the documentation likely to inform us
about the possible existence of forest areas that could have been exploited on a large scale (production of construction wood or coal), whether domesticated vegetation (acacia plantations under “sustainable” management, for example) or no-domesticated flora for example in the southern Eastern Desert.>From these regions of production to places and activities of consumption, the
internal circulation of wood is based on social and economic networks that remain poorly understood : the role and status of economic actors, places of storage, the form of wood in transit, means of transport, trade routes, are all avenues to be explored for each period. Furthermore, papers that will deal with the economic activities for which wood is ordered in large quantities,
with an emphasis on the consumption of construction or charcoal wood (shipbuilding, forges, kilns etc.) will receive a particular attention .

3. Woodworking : production workshops and use of worked objects

Finally, we seek to develop further debate around the questions revolving around wood craftsmanship, highlighting the contributions that make it possible to locate traditional woodworking centres and to define the species prioritised in these workshops. Wherever possible, contributors are asked to explore whether the choice of a species is based on the availability of nearby wood, its own qualities or its symbolic value.

To shed light on the contexts of use of worked wood, particularly in the domestic and agricultural spheres, which have been until recently relatively documented, we strongly encourage the presentation of new collections of wooden objects, especially if they have been the subject of xylological analysis, from reliable archaeological contexts and museum collections (furniture, frames, tools and various equipment).
If necessary, a distinction should be made between locally produced objects and those imported in an already processed form.

The guidelines above are only indicative of avenues for reflection, to be developed in discussion during the symposium. This call is open to any contribution likely to bring new elements on the subject, whatever the approach taken, the historical period concerned or the language of the corpus studied.

To meet the requirements of a transdisciplinary audience, care should be taken to clarify the scope of the study, ensuring communication accessible to all, and, as far as possible, to seek to establish links with other disciplinary fields. In order to facilitate this work, a reference bibliography will be sent to selected participants who so wish.