Meet the Team

Our project offers a collaborative network for young researchers from across the world. Dr. Marike van Aerde, Assistant Professor World Archaeology at Leiden University, is the project coordinator. She supervises the work of the PhD and MA students concerning port sites in Egypt, the Gandhara era in India/Pakistan, and Karakorum petroglyphs, in particular. PhD candidate Rishika Dhumal focuses on the early trade networks of the Indian Subcontinent. PhD candidate Samatar Botan specialises in the distribution and spread of East African Aksumite trade ware up until the mid-1st millennium CE. PhD candidate Daniele Zampierin specialises in archaeometric research and the analysis of trade distribution patterns across the ancient Indian Ocean. MA student Alexander Mohns studies trade connections across Sri Lanka and, as the team's fieldwork specialist, he also collaborates with Abdul Ghani Khan (MPhil), our researcher currently based in Pakistan, whose expertise is the study of rock art in the Karakorum mountains. 

Frequent collaborators of our team are Mike Kneppers (on zoomorphic rock art) and Lenneke de Lange (outreach and journalism). Photographer Benjamin de Groot has repeatedly worked with us on our archaeological documentations and catalogues and makes us look good in our PR photos.

Click here for the extended bios of the team’s main researchers.

Our Project

Our team’s research project, ‘Routes of Exchange, Roots of Connectivity’, investigates ancient processes of connectivity in local detail and global scope. Our methods include documentation, analysis, and interpretation of large quantities of newly excavated, currently unpublished, and urgently threatened archaeological evidence of the routes that connected sites and regions of the ancient Indian Subcontinent and East Africa. Examples of such materials are ceramics, petroglyphs, architectural structures and other finds from excavations, depots, and older catalogs. The project so far has conducted statistical (database/GIS) and interpretative studies concerning sites in India, Pakistan, and East Africa (Egypt, Horn of Africa). The study of these data allows for verifiable reconstructions of the actual trade routes that connected people in the past, and a more factual and comprehensive insight into the diversity of ancient trade cities.

Our team also actively engages in archaeological heritage protection and Open Access output. We continue to work with Pakistani archaeologists and local communities to document as yet unrecorded rock art in the Karakorum mountains, which are currently under threat of destruction, and the project aims to help make the rock art widely accessible in digital form. Another example is the digitally accessible archaeological reference collection we have compiled of unpublished pottery and glass sherds from Palmyra (Syria) and Petra (Jordan), two crucial trade cities of the ancient Silk Roads networks, in order to concretely contribute to the preservation of archaeological heritage under threat.

Photography: Benjamin de Groot 2020