Civilizations in Contact

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Research activities


CiC Textile Exhibition July 2011

Civilizations in Contact organised an exhibition of textiles that was held at Great St. Mary's Church in Cambridge during July. The worldwide trade in textiles has traditionally moved more goods and money than almost anything else - and it is not surprising that textiles have been responsible for a great deal of cultural contact, which went beyond the simple level of buying and selling. This small exhibition aimed to trace a few of these exchanges, and show how they affected materials, techniques and design. For more information please email textile.exhibition at

Joint CiC - MARES Seminar

"Trade, Travellers, and Transport: Contacts Across Time and Space"

10-11 June 2010, Wolfson College, Cambridge.

The aim of this seminar was to present and discuss the ongoing work of two research projects: The Civilizations in Contact project at Cambridge and the MARES project at Exeter. Both research projects are funded by the Golden Web Foundation.

Civilizations in Contact Presentations:

  • Sally K. Church "The Excavation of the Treasure Shipyard in Nanjing and the Size of Zheng He's Ships".
  • Robert Harding "Ports and Power: The Economic Expansion of Travancore".
  • Paul Lunde "A 17th Century Arabic Description of Venice".
  • Jane McIntosh "Harappan Seals".
  • Caroline Stone "Shipwreck and Ship Building - Japan 1609".

MARES Presentations:

  • Prof. Dionisius A. Agius "La force de la parole : Slave trafficking in Djibouti, ethnographical fieldwork (October 2009)".
  • Dr. John P. Cooper "True to form: tradition and hull-shape in the transition from wood to fibre-glass construction in Yemen's boat-building industry".
  • Julian Jansen-Van-Rensburg "Integrating the isolated: The Socotra Archipelago".
  • Lucy Semaan "The use of wood in shipbuilding in the Red Sea during the classical period".
  • Dr. Chiara Zazzaro "Boatbuilding traditions in the Red Sea form past to present: a preliminary assessment on archaeological and ethnographic evidence".

Abstracts of above Presentations.

Photographs of the event.

Current and Past Lectures

The China Research Seminar Series

22 May 2010, at 3pm, Bateman Auditorium , Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

Sally K. Church: "The Colossal Ships of Zheng He (郑和宝船)".

The World Oral Literature Project Occasional Lecture Series

13 October 2009, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

"Ifugao oral epics: Reflections on living traditions and cultural heritage in the Philippines" by Dr. Maria Vladimirovna Stanyukovich (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, St Petersburg, Russia).

Dr. Stanyukovich is Chair of the Department of Australia, Oceania and Indonesia at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Science, St Petersburg, Russia. She has been working on the epic oral traditions of the Philippines for over 30 years, and has also conducted fieldwork in the Altai Republic, Uzbekistan, Dagestan, Cuba, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. She was in Cambridge for one month to work with Civilizations in Contact.

For more information about the lecture, please visit

Research Presentations Day

8 June 2009, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge.

  • Sally K. Church "From China to Herat: Using GIS to Map a 15th-century Diplomat's Journey".
  • Robert Harding "Research in Kanyakumari District".
  • Paul Lunde "New World Plants in Asia".
  • Jane McIntosh "Woolly thinking: Mesopotamian textiles and the Harappans".
  • Caroline Stone "Travels in Time and Space".

MARES I Seminar Programme

29-30 May 2009, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.

  • Sally K. Church "Tantalising Traces of Material Culture in the Longjiang Shipyard Treatise of 1553".
  • Robert Harding "Research in Kanyakumari District, Southern India".
  • Paul Lunde "João de Castro's Survey of the Red Sea - 1541".
  • Jane McIntosh "Farfarers of Meluhha? Indian Ocean interactions in the later third millennium BCE".
  • Caroline Stone "A Stitch in Time".

Photographs of the event.

Wolfson Lunchtime Seminars

Wolfson College, Cambridge.

  • Robert Harding "Ports and Power: Excavation of a Dynastic Capital of the Indian Ocean", 8 June 2011. Postponed from 16 March.
  • Laurence Smith "Archaeology and History at Suakin, a medieval port on the Red Sea", 16 March 2011. In a change to the advertised schedule, this replaces the previously announced seminar by Robert Harding.
  • Edward Simpson "Colonial Ghosts and Gods on Horseback: The Epistemology of History in Western India", 23 February 2011.
  • Cliff Pereira, Fellow of The Royal Geographic Society "New Research on Medieval Sino-African Relationships", 24 November 2010.
  • Nicholas de Lange, with Gethin Rees and Alexander Panayotov "Mapping the Jews of Byzantium", 10 November 2010.
  • Sally K. Church "Ten Corrupt Practices at the Longjiang Shipyard: Management Lessons in 16th Century China", 26 May 2010.
  • Meha Priyadarshini "Mexican Chocolate and Chinese Cups: Trade and Artisanal Knowledge in the Early Modern World", 28 April 2010.
  • Marsha Levine and Mark Holmes "Technological Change in Inner Asia: The Reconstruction of an Ancient Saddle from Subeixi (c. 5th-3rd century BC; Xinjiang, China)", 3 March 2010.
  • Caroline Stone "Around the World in 1209, Cambridge's Anniversary Year", 18 November 2009.
  • Janice Stargardt "Silver Tokens of the Chinese Salt Tax on the Bed of the Java Sea", 4 November 2009.
  • Maria Stanyukovich "Philippine Studies in St.Petersburg, Russia", 21 October 2009.
  • Paul Lunde "João de Castro's Survey of the Red Sea - 1541", 3 June 2009.
  • Jane McIntosh "The Tiger and the Unicorn: investigating the significance of images on Indus seals", 22 April 2009.
  • Raymond Mercier "From Time to Time: Problems in the Conversion of Calendars, Especially for the History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy", 4 February 2009.
  • Sally K. Church "How Long is a Foot? The Size of the Ships used on China's 15th century Maritime Expeditions", 28 January 2009.
  • Caroline Stone "From Qing China to Carmen's Tobacco Factory: Chinese Export Embroideries", 5 November 2008.
  • Robert Harding "The Eternal Taj Mahal: Prehistory and Development", 15 October 2008.

Photographs of the event.

Recent Publications

Robert Harding has contributed an article entitled "Cunningham, Marshall and the Monks: An Early Historic City as Buddhist Landscape" in a book on the early history of Indian archaeology. The Marshall Albums: Photography and Archaeology, edited by Sudeshna Guha, is concerned with the period in which John Marshall was Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India (1902-28) and is centred on a collection of private family photographs. An exhibition was held in New Delhi in conjunction with the book’s release. More details may be found on the Alkazi Foundation’s website at

Two new books edited and introduced by Caroline Stone have recently been added to the "Travellers in the Wider Levant Series", published by Hardinge Simpole: Odette du Puigaudeau: Barefoot Through Mauretania and, with Karen Johnson, The Curious and Amazing Adventures of Maria ter Meetelen: Twelve Years a Slave (1731-43). These join Caroline's three previous books in the series: Fadhma Amrouche: The Story of My Life; Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo: Embassy to Tamerlane; and Miss Tully: Letters Written during a Ten Year's Residence at the Court of Tripoli, 1783-1795. For more information, please visit:

Recent Conferences

From the 1-3 October 2010, the CiC researchers attended "Gujarat and the Sea", a conference organised by Darshak Itihas Nidhi to celebrate and develop interest in Gujarat's maritime heritage. The conference venue was Mandvi, a walled town on the Gulf of Kutch which still retains its ship-building heritage. Papers had a broad chronological range; from the evidence for boats of the Indus Civilisation to the presence of Kutch textiles in Southeast Asia. Civilizations in Contact contributed three papers. Caroline Stone presented "India the Rich - Perceptions of India by Russian Travellers and in Popular Literature from the Time of Athanasius Nikitin". In "The Case for Contact between Gujarat and Quanzhou in the Song Dynasty" Sally K. Church discussed one of the few external sources for medieval Gujarati society. Paul Lunde's "João de Castro's Hydrographic Survey of the West Indian Coast - 1538" explored the achievements and historical context of Castro's mapping project. All the CiC researchers were impressed by the level of organisation and the hospitality on offer; and would like to express their sincere thanks to Mr. Hasmukh Shah, Dr. Lotika Varadarajan and other members of Darshak Itihas Nidhi for making the conference such a memorable occasion.