The Team


Our team consists of five main researchers, four of whom are currently based at Leiden University. Dr. Marike van Aerde is the project coordinator and lecturer in Archaeology. She supervises the work of the project’s PhD and MA students, and has published research on port sites in Egypt, the Gandhara era in India/Pakistan, and Karakorum petroglyphs, in particular. Among the PhDs, Rishika Dhumal focuses on the early trade networks of the Indian Subcontinent, while Samatar Botan specialises in the distribution and spread of East African Aksumite trade ware up until the mid-1st millennium CE. 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 Lenneke de Lange, who studies Archaeology and Journalism and helps our team with our online media output, and MA student Beatriz Gomez de Silva, who is our freelance digital archaeologist and who has created Geo-referenced (GIS) maps for our publications. In addition, Anouk Everts, whose current PhD research specialises in Egyptian Archaeology, is a frequent consultant, and photographer Benjamin de Groot continues to work with us on our archaeological documentations.

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

The 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 Our methods include documentation, analysis, and interpretation of large quantities of newly excavated, currently unpublished, and urgently threatened archaeological evidence of the routes that connected sites and regions of the ancient Indian Subcontinent and East Africa.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.

All photography: Benjamin de Groot 2020