Bronze Age Sailors in the Libyan Sea: Reconsidering the Capacity for Northward Voyages between Crete and North Africa

by Michelle Creisher

Institution: Brandeis University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Bronze Age; Ancient Trade; Mediterranean Sea; Crete; Egypt; Ship Technology; Trade Routes
Record ID: 2058318
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10192/30583


This thesis re-examines the factors which would have allowed for the possibility of a direct northward trade route between the North African coastal ports and Crete during the Bronze Age. The subject has been the topic of much scholarly debate over the years with various features being hailed as sticking points for any model of a two-way trade system in the Libyan Sea in the second millennium B.C. This paper offers a systematic discussion of each of the three major factors which have been purported by scholars as prohibiting northward voyages: the patterns and characteristics of the winds in the Mediterranean Sea, Bronze Age ship technology and the sailing techniques and practices of the time and finally, the physical evidence, both literary and archaeological, which supports a bi-directional theory. Through the discussion laid out in this paper, one can see that in fact, the ship technology would have allowed for sailing northward from the North African coast to Crete both with the aid of an opportune southern wind and without. There are written records of such voyages having taken place, as well as a small amount of archaeological evidence which supports the model of two-way trade between Egypt and Crete. Especially during the Late Bronze Age, it is clear that certain ships would have opted for the shorter, more direct route of sailing northward in the Libyan Sea towards Crete rather than taking the longer route up along the Levantine coast towards Syria-Palestine and around.