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Re: [ANE-2] Re: Re: Living in the desert

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  • David Hall
    It seems like desert travel distances of 50-60 kms were for people in good physical condition on good terrain, probably not during the scorching afternoon heat
    Message 1 of 53 , Jun 2, 2007
      It seems like desert travel distances of 50-60 kms were for people in good physical condition on good terrain, probably not during the scorching afternoon heat of July. Normal desert travel times would take into account the times families might travel across the desert. I read that Thutmos III traveled the 150 miles of the Sinia from near E. Qantara to Gaza in about ten days. That was a more realistic march of about fifteen miles a day for men carrying their military gear in ancient times remaining in column. A column that stays together can only move as fast as its slowest member can go. There were established wells along the way. The NW Sinai is blessed with shallow groundwater oases as was Arish near the eastern end of the Sinai. I went as far as Bir Abd on the Sinai littoral in 1999 thus I really cannot give an eyewitness account of the central and eastern parts of the littoral. Pottery and discarded rubbish from early until present times was found along this
      route. You might recall the Tale of Sinuhe who deserted his army unit and crept through the Egyptian border defenses into the desert to almost die of thirst only to lift his eyes to a group of "Sand-crossers" offering desert hospitality to save him.

      David Q. Hall

      "Ariel L. Szczupak" <ane.als@...> wrote:
      At 05:56 PM 6/1/2007, David Hall wrote:

      >The Old Haj caravans through Syria and Northern Arabia averaged
      >about 24 miles a day in the 19th century (Charles Doughty). Doughty
      >left England and learned Arabic in Syria before going to Damascus to
      >join the Haj into Arabia. In the caravan they had camels to carry
      >supplies and tents, they had livestock along with them. Some had to
      >travel on foot. Generally they did not have babies or small children
      >with them, there were a few women with them also. Doughty wrote the
      >history of one haj caravan that perished for lack of water between
      >Tebuk and Medain Salih. They dug for water in the canyon and it was
      >not there. I presume they could have carried enough water for a day
      >or more in water skins, yet there was not always water within a day
      >of walking.

      "A day's distance" usually refers to the distance covered in a day of
      normal desert walking speed in a non-extreme desert topography and
      weather, i.e. 50-60 km - but there are many ways to travel in the
      desert and the actual speed is determined by the slowest member of
      the group. There are many types of caravans and convoys. A Haj
      caravan will progress more rapidly than a trading caravan (less
      load). Loaded pack animals progress more slowly than people walking,
      but when you have pack animals you can carry more water and you don't
      need to reach a watering point every night.

      And yes, some of the caravans don't make it, just like some people
      who travel in cars or airplanes don't make it. Or maybe a better
      analogy risk-wise would be the ships sailing on the Europe/far-east
      route in the 17th and 18th centuries.

      The point I was trying to make in relation to NPL's comment is that
      while the NE deserts are hostile environments, they are far from
      deadly if you know what you're doing (and where). Both
      hunter-gatherers and desert herders can survive there.
      Hunter-gatherers travel light on foot. Herders progress more slowly,
      but then they are not constantly on the move - they move from oasis
      to oasis where there's both water and vegetation, and the "pit stops"
      are enough for making such "relocation" treks.

      The problem is that both types of societies leave very little
      material evidence to begin with, and whatever is left is subject to
      desert erosion. The same temperature differentials that crack rocks
      will affect also pottery and bones. Whatever is on the surface will
      be subject to the "sand paper" effect of desert winds, sun
      "bleaching", flash floods, etc. The dryness of the desert air is very
      good for preserving organics - but only when they are protected from
      the external conditions.

      Geology and hydrology can provide indications on the history of water
      resources, but they can't tell if these water resources were actually
      used, when, by whom, etc.

      But we do know that for many centuries back from the present most of
      these areas were inhabited by hunting, gathering, herding & raiding
      semi-nomads. So if we go back further in time to the ANE periods, and
      if we have an indication of something taking place in these areas
      (e.g. a text), and if geological history tells us that the conditions
      at this specific time and place were not significantly worse than in
      recent centuries, then, I think, the balance should tilt towards
      accepting the evidence instead of rejecting it for "no water" reasons.


      [100% bona fide dilettante ... delecto ergo sum!]

      Ariel L. Szczupak
      AMIS-JLM (Ricercar Ltd.)
      POB 4707, Jerusalem, Israel 91401
      Phone: +972-2-5619660 Fax: +972-2-5634203

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • finckean
      Listers may be interested in the folowing article from today s www.nytimes.com: Scholars Race to Recover a Lost Kingdom on the Nile By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
      Message 53 of 53 , Jun 19, 2007
        Listers may be interested in the folowing article from today's
        Scholars Race to Recover a Lost Kingdom on the Nile
        Published: June 19, 2007
        On the periphery of history in antiquity, there was a land known as
        Kush. Overshadowed by Egypt, to the north, it was a place of
        uncharted breadth and depth far up the Nile, a mystery verging on
        myth. One thing the Egyptians did know and recorded — Kush had gold.
        Skip to next paragraph
        Slide Show
        A Lost Kingdom on the Nile

        Gist of the article is that scholars from U. Chicago are - and have
        been all year - working frantically to recover evidence about the
        lost kingdom of Kush (2000-1500 BC) that - despite having neither a
        writing system nor bureaucracy - flourished as a gold-producing
        megalith between the first and fourth catartacts and farther south.
        A new dam around the fourth cataract threatens to turn the area into
        a lake.
        Andrew Fincke
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