Date Presented:15-17 Sept.
The multidirectional flow of communication and culture around the Late Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean is clearly reflected in the iconographic, literary, and material records. While the participation of states in these exchanges of ideas and objects is clearly recorded in records like the Amarna letters, the role of non-state actors, both within established networks and “below the radar” on the periphery of formal lines of communication, is a subject that has garnered increasing interest in recent years. This paper approaches the role of peripheral actors – alternatively known as entrepreneurs or pirates, depending on time, setting, and context – in the development and diffusion of technology by focusing on the development and spread of the Helladic Oared Galley and the Loose-Footed, Brailed Sail around the Eastern Mediterranean during the last years of the Late Bronze Age and the Late Bronze–Early Iron transition. These technological developments represented a break from prior ship design, which revolutionized seafaring in the eastern Mediterranean. While the Galley, a vessel well-suited for raiding and warfare, seems to have its origin in the Helladic world (as its name suggests), the brailed sailing rig appears in multiple locations within the Eastern Mediterranean world within a small temporal window, with its most famous representation being the naval battle scene at Medinet Habu, wherein both Egyptian and ‘Sea Peoples’ ships are portrayed as employing this new rig in identical fashion. The circumstances and connections which caused these opposing forces to draw on new and identical implements will be explored in this study, as will the role (and travels) of non-state maritime actors in driving the development and distribution of this revolutionary maritime technology.