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The Various Ways of Being Mobile: Habitual Knowledge, Life-Strategies and the Ancient Route Networks on the Eastern Marmarica- Plateau (Northern Libyan Desert)

Anna-Katharina Rieger
  • Max Weber Center of Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University Erfurt / La Sapienza, Rome, 99105 Erfurt, Germany
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Published Online: 2017-06-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0003


Mobility, from a historical perspective, comprises a broad variety of movements of people. This paper focuses on the mobility of multisited groups, based on the preconditions that an arid environment imposes on mobility. The Eastern Marmarica-Plateau in NW-Egypt in Graeco-Roman times (5th century BCE to 4th century CE) serves as case study of the various ways in which people in such landscapes were mobile, and what we can infer from the aspect of mobility about their social practices. In order to elucidate these issues, the discussion centres on archaeological-historical methodology and theoretical implications of mobility and the wayfaring of inhabitants of arid lands. Moreover, the question is pursued of how routes emerged and how habitual knowledge was cemented in order to establish the trails used by generations to follow. The paper shows the interconnection and similarities between the mobility of multisited communities and the seemingly so different mobility of crop-growing groups, according to the exploitation, availability and exchange of resources and goods. As a general concern, the alleged dichotomy of sedentary and nomadic mobility is challenged and replaced by a more open concept of space and place. Mobility, the complexity of interactions and hence the routes themselves are not so much shaped by fixed socio-cultural ascriptions of life-strategies to certain agents, rather by implicit knowledge, varying social practices, and economic drivers.

Keywords : archaeology of mobility; arid environments; multisited communities; Libyan Desert; Marmarica- Plateau; Graeco-Roman antiquity; cognitive mapping; route and water supply systems; marginal environments


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About the article

Received: 2016-04-18

Accepted: 2017-03-08

Published Online: 2017-06-20

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Archaeology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 49–68, ISSN (Online) 2300-6560, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opar-2017-0003.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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