Roads in the Deserts of Roman Egypt: Analysis, Atlas, Commentary [Paperback]

Maciej Paprocki(Author)

ISBN: 9781789251562 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 352p, H9.5 x W6.75, b/w
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Roads in the Deserts of Roman Egypt


Egypt under the Romans (30 BCE–3rd century CE) was a period when local deserts experienced an unprecedented flurry of activity. In the Eastern Desert, a marked increase in desert traffic came from imperial prospecting/quarrying activities and caravans transporting wares to and from the Red Sea ports. In the Western Desert, resilient camels slowly became primary beasts of burden in desert travel, enabling caravaneers to lengthen daily marching distances across previously inhospitable dunes. Desert road archaeology has used satellite imaging, landscape studies and network analysis to plot desert trail networks with greater accuracy; however, it is often difficult to date roadside installations and thus assess how these networks evolved in scope and density in reaction to climatic, social and technological change.

Roads in the Deserts of Roman Egypt examines evidence for desert roads in Roman Egypt and assesses Roman influence on the road density in two select desert areas: the central and southern section of the Eastern Desert and the central Marmarican Plateau and discusses geographical and social factors influencing road use in the period, demonstrating that Roman overseers of these lands adapted remarkably well to local desert conditions, improving roads and developing the trail network. Crucially, the author reconceptualizes desert trails as linear corridor structures that follow expedient routes in the desert landscape, passing through at least two functional nodes attracting human traffic, be those water sources, farmlands, mines/quarries, trade hubs, military installations or actual settlements. The ‘route of least resistance’ across the desert varied from period to period according to the available road infrastructure and beasts of burden employed. Roman administration in Egypt not only increased the density of local desert ‘node’ networks, but also facilitated internodal connections with camel caravans and transformed the Sahara by establishing new, or embellishing existing, nodes, effectively funneling desert traffic into discernible corridors.

Significantly, not all desert areas of Egypt are equally suited for anthropogenic development, but almost all have been optimized in one way or another, with road installations built for added comfort and safety of travelers. Accordingly, the study of how Romans successfully adapted to desert travel is of wider significance to the study of deserts and ongoing expansion due to global warming.

Table of Contents

Preface and acknowledgements
List of figures
1. Introduction: research aims, book structure, and sources
1.1. Main research aims and scope
1.2. Structure of this book
1.3. This book as an atlas: maps of desert trails of Roman Egypt
1.4. Sources on ancient traffic along desert trails of Egypt
2. Road networks of Roman Egypt
2.1. Factors influencing road network structure in Roman Egypt
2.2. Dense and sparse zones in the Egyptian deserts under the Roman influence
3. Pack animals in ancient Egyptian desert transport: shifting patterns of use
3.1. Donkeys
3.2. Camels
3.3. Oxen
3.4. Horses
4. Roads of the Sinai Peninsula
4.1. Roman Sinai as the Nabataean trade corridor between Africa and Asia
4.2. Roads linking northern Egypt to Palestine
4.3. Nabataean road nexus in the Negev
4.4. Trails linking the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Suez
4.5. Trails across the central and southern Sinai
5. Roads of the Eastern Desert
5.1. Roads of the Eastern Desert – northern section
5.2. Roads of the Eastern Desert – central section
5.3. Roads of the Eastern Desert – southern section
6. Roads of the Western Desert
6.1. Roads from Alexandria
6.2. Roads between Memphis and selected Western Desert sites
6.3. Roads from Siwa to the Mediterranean coast and the Nile Valley
6.4. Roads from Bahariya Oasis to the Nile Valley
6.5. Asyut Oasis Junction (roads from Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga to Asyut)
6.6. Other roads from Kharga to the Nile Valley
6.7. Roads crossing the Qena Nile Bend
6.8. Roads linking Dunqul and Kurkur Oases with Syene, al Shabb, Selima and Kharga Oases
6.9. Roads between major oases
6.10. Roads from major oases to sites beyond Egypt
7. Road density area studies
7.1. Introduction
7.2. Area studies
8. Conclusions and future research
General index
Geographical index

Reviews & Quotes

""[…] the book offers an overview of the road system in Roman Egypt and is certainly the most complete work in this field of research so far.""

Orbis Terrarum ()

""[A] fascinating book.""

Ancient Egypt Magazine ()

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