The context of study
Mediterranean Africa is defined as a region between the Mediterranean sea and the Sahara, extending from the Gibraltar strait to Suez, via the Maghreb, the coast and hinterland of the Gulfs of Hammamet and Sirt, the upland Gebel Akdar (Cyrenaica) and including the Nile Delta. Its width varies along its length and has fluctuated over the Holocene, in the North due to post-glacial sea-level rise and in the South thanks to shifting ecotones with the Sahara (crudely, a wetter earlier Holocene environment trending, through several sharp oscillations, to a drier regime broadly akin to the present by the 4th millennium BC), thereby creating a ribbon of land variably ca. 50-250+ km deep.
Research Question 1
What do internal networks of interaction reveal about changing forms and ranges of mobility and exchange, as well as intensity of connectivity and isolation (the latter critical as growing Holocene aridity from the 4th millennium BC began to split the region into variably internally resilient habitat islands), socio-economic activity and possibly identities?
Research Question 2
Why does our information reduce so sharply from the 4th millennium BC onwards until the threshold of the colonial Iron Age? To what extent can this be attributed to aridification in the Mediterranean zone, as undoubtedly holds good for the Sahara, or is it a product of failing to look for the right kinds of material and sites, and of their relative visibility?
Research Question 3
What are the reason of the very late dispersion of farming across the Mediterranean littoral? Current evidence seems to indicate internal variation in time and space across Mediterranean Africa. This includes a long-lived mosaic of foraging, pastoral and mixed ways of, often evincing a very broad multi-spectral exploitation of resources; and, from the 6th millennium BC, confined enclaves of farming that long remained restricted to the Nile and around the Gibraltar strait. (Lucarini 2016).
Research Question 4
Was Mediterranean African pre-Phoenician maritime engagement (beyond the obvious exception of the Nile Delta) as limited as usually assumed? If so, why, and what explains apparent exceptions in time and space, notably across the strait of Gibraltar (a 6th millennium BC southward farming transfer, and definite 3rd -2nd millennium BC trading links signaled by pottery, metalwork and ivory) and the Sicilian narrows (central Mediterranean obsidian in north Africa)?