Photo of Dr John P. Cooper

Dr John P. Cooper

Research Interests

My research interests address the maritime cultures of the Arab-Islamic world from archaeological, textual and ethnographic perspectives. My period of interest runs from late Antiquity to the present day. The main themes of my research are:

  • Boat recording technologies
  • Coastal communities
  • Navigational landscapes
  • Medieval and early-modern Nile navigation
  • Ports and harbours
  • Rivers, lakes and wetlands
  • Boatbuilding traditions and seafaring technologies
  • Pre-modern navigation techniques
  • Ports and harbours
  • Maritime archaeology
  • Islamic archaeology
  • Maritime heritage 

My current areas of research activity include:

3D laser-scanning of traditional watercraft, Qatar

Funded by Qatar Museums, this research has involved applying 3D laser-scanning technology to the recording of traditional watercraft in the National Museum of Qatar collection. The raw scans were processed into into photorealistic 3D digital models for museum display and more traditional 2D forms. The work was conducted together with Dr Andy Wetherelt (University of Exeter) and Dr Chiara Zazzaro (University of Naples "l'Orientale").

The navigational landscape of the medieval Nile, Egypt

Arising from my AHRC-funded PhD research (University of Southampton, 2009), my interests focus on the medieval geography of the Nile waterway network; navigational conditions and travellers’ experiences on the river; and human responses – such as the construction of new canals and the location of ports – to the changeable environmental and geopolitical conditions they encountered. My book on the subject is in press. 

Boatbuilding and Seafaring Traditions of the Southern Red Sea Region

Together with Professor Dionisius A. Agius (Principal Investigator) and Dr Chiara Zazzaro, I have conducted ethnographic research (2009-2011) into the boatbuilding and seafaring traditions of the southern Red Sea region – focusing on Yemen, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Jizan and the Farasan Islands in Saudi Arabia. Working with my colleagues, my main areas of inquiry were technology and technological change, particularly the transition from use of wood to use of fibreglass in boat construction; boat typologies; construction techniques; and the language of boatbuilding and seafaring. This work was conducted under the MARES banner (Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies), and was funded by the Golden Web Foundation. 

I have also worked with Dr Lucy Blue in investigating the distribution, adaptation, use and imitation of the Indian-built huri logboat in Yemen as part of Dr Blue’s University of Southampton Huri Project. 

The Port city of Tinnis and the Lake Manzala region, Egypt

Together with my co-investigator, Dr Alison Gascoigne of the University of Southampton, I am investigating Tell Tinnis, site of one of the most significant river and sea ports of Egypt in the medieval period. Our investigations address the urban layout and harbour infrastructure of the city, as well as the impact of isostatic processes on landscape change and site-formation processes. Dr Gascoigne and I won a British Academy Small Grant (2011) for sedimentological work at the site, which was conducted during the 2012 season. 

 
Fieldwork
 
Feb 2013     National Museum of Qatar (NMQ) Dhow 3D Laser-Scanning Project
                            Qatar (P.I.)
                            3D scanning and modelling of the NMQ dhow collection.
 
Jun 2012     Tinnis Archaeological Survey Project 
                            Egypt (Co.I. with Dr Alison Gascoigne/University of Southampton).
                            Topographic, geophysical and sedimentological survey of Tell Tinnis.
 
Feb 2011     MARES Eritrea Coastal Survey
                            University of Exeter  (P.I.: Prof. Dionisius A. Agius). 
                            Ethnographic survey of current wooden boatbuilding practices in Eritrea.
 
Jan/May 2010   MARES Farasan Islands Survey, Saudi Arabia 
                            University of Exeter (P.I.: Prof. Dionisius A. Agius).
                            Ethnographic survey of boatbuilding and pearling traditions on the islands and Jizan.
                            Archaeological survey of main islands.
 
Oct 2009     MARES Djibouti Survey
                            University of Exeter (P.I.: Prof. Dionisius A. Agius) .
                            Ethnographic survey of current boatbuilding practices in Djibouti.
 
Apr 2009     Tinnis Survey Project, Egypt,
                            University of Southampton (P.I. Dr Alison Gascoigne).
                            Geophysical survey of Tell Tinnis archaeological site.
 
Feb 2009     MARES Yemen Survey
                            University of Exeter (P.I.: Prof. Dionisius A. Agius).
                            Ethnographic survey of current wooden boatbuilding practices in Yemen.
 
Aug 2008     Mareotis Survey Project
                            University of Southampton (P.I.: Dr Lucy Blue).
                            Archaeological survey of lakeside sites around Lake Mareotis, Egypt. 
 
May/ Aug 2007  Mareotis Survey Project
                            University of Southampton (P.I.: Dr Lucy Blue).
                            Archaeological survey of lakeside sites around Lake Mareotis, Egypt. 
 
Apr 2007     Yemen Hūrī Survey
                            University of Southampton (P.I.: Dr Lucy Blue).
                            Two-week ethnographic survey of small fishing boats in Yemen.
 
Jul 2005             Stourhead Lake Survey, Wiltshire.
                            Nautical Archaeology Society.
                            Underwater survey of submerged architectural and landscape features.
 
May 2005     Axemouth Boat Project, Devon.
                            University of Southampton (P.I.: Dr Jon Adams).
                            Underwater excavation of a 14th century ship in an estuarine context.
 
Mar-May 2005   Ashlett Fisheries Survey, Hampshire.
                            University of Southampton.
                            Survey of fish-weir structures in Southampton Water.
 
Conference papers

2014

HxGN Live 2014 Conference, Las Vegas

John P. Cooper, Andy Wetherelt and Chiara Zazzaro: "3D Modelling of the National Museum of Qatar's Dhow Collection: Diversifying HDS Services from Deep Underground Mining to Maritime Heritage."

Procida, Italy, 30-31 May 2014

John P. Cooper, Jane Gallwey, Lynne Newton, Andy Wetherelt and Chiara Zazzaro: "High Tech and Low Tech Approaches to Traditional Boat Recording in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf."

FRAUG, Baltimore, Ireland, 5-10 May 2014

John P. Cooper, Lynne Newton, Andy Wetherelt and Chiara Zazzaro: "3D-Laser Scanning of Traditional Watercraft in the National Museum of Qatar Collection."

Department of Archaeology, University of Exeter: “Documenting traditional boat-building in the Red Sea and Gulf: from tape measures to laser scanners.”

John P. Cooper, Lynne Newton, Andy Wetherelt and Chiara Zazzaro: "3D-Laser Scanning of Traditional Watercraft in the National Museum of Qatar Collection."

2013

Seminar for Arabian Studies

British Museum,  26-28 July 2013

John P. Cooper, Lynne Newton, Andy Wetherelt & Chiara Zazzaro: “3D laser scanning of traditional watercraft in the National Museum of Qatar collection: recording, interpretation and conservation”

Digital Boat Recording Workshop

University of Southampton, 20 May 2013

John P. Cooper, Andy Wetherelt & Chiara Zazzaro: “3D Laser-scanning of the traditional vessel collection o the National Museum of Qatar”

 Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

MIA Auditorium, 3 March 2013

John P. Cooper & Chiara Zazzaro: “3D Laser Scanning of the National Museum of Qatar’s Dhow Collection: Objectives, Methodology & Preliminary Results.”

2012

ISBSA 12 – 13th International Symposium on Ship and Boat Archaeology

Dutch Maritime Museum, Amsterdam, 8-12 October 2012

Lucy Blue, Julian Whitewright, & John P. Cooper: “The ubiquitous hūrī

First International MIRI Workshop

Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, 24-25 August 2012

John P. Cooper & Alison Gascoigne: “Tell Tinnīs: the connections and provisioning of a city” 

National Museum of Qatar Dhow Workshop

Qatar Museums Authority, 30 April 2012

John P. Cooper: “The MARES Project: 3D laser scanning for conservation and museum display”

2011

Naukratis Workshop

British Museum, 17 December 2011

John P. Cooper: “The Navigational Landscape of the western Delta: Islamic Documentary Evidence”

Seminar for Arabian Studies

British Museum, 28-30 July 2011.

Chiara Zazzaro & John P. Cooper: “An archaeological survey of the Farasan Islands, Saudi Arabia.”

The Nile in Medieval Thought & Culture (Workshop)

Warburg Institute, 27 May 2011

John P. Cooper: “Nile Navigation”

The Ports of the Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Bengal

Centre for Archaeological Studies & Training, Eastern India, 23-27 February 2011

Chiara Zazzaro & John P. Cooper: “Recent archaeological investigations in the Farasan Islands and southern Red Sea.”

2010

WOCMES 2010 – World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, 19-24 July 2010

Dionisius A. Agius, John P Cooper & Chiara Zazzaro: “Between Shell-First and Skeleton-First: Hull Construction in Southern Red Sea Boatbuilding Traditions”

International Medieval Congress

Leeds, 12-15 July 2010

John P. Cooper: “Pilgrims, Navigators and the Reconstruction of the Medieval Nile Delta”

Civilisations in Contact Seminar: “Trade, Travellers and Transport: Contacts across Time and Space”

Wolfson College, Cambridge, 10-11 June 2010

John P. Cooper: “True to form: tradition and hull shape in the transition from wood to fibreglass construction in Yemen’s boat-building industry.”

2009

ASOR 2009 – American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting

New Orleans, 18-21 November 2009

John P. Cooper: “No easy option: The Nile versus the Red Sea in Ancient North-South Navigation”

University of Djibouti

Djibouti, 29 October 2009

Dionisius A. Agius, John P. Cooper & Chiara Zazzaro: “L’Heritage Maritime de Djibouti: Le Projet MARES”

Seminar for Arabian Studies

British Museum, 23-25 July 2009

Dionisius Agius, John P. Cooper, Julian Jansen van Rensburg & Chiara Zazzaro: “The dhow’s last redoubt: vestiges of wooden boatbuilding traditions in Yemen”

Society for the Medieval Mediterranean Conference: “Merchants, Mercenaries and Missionaries: The Society and Culture of the Medieval Mediterranean, c. 500-1500”

Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, 9-12 July 2009

John P. Cooper: “Fear God, Fear the būghāz: The Nile-Mediterranean Interface and Medieval Egyptian Navigation”

Egypt Exploration Society Annual Conference:  “New Explorations: the EES in 2009”

Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, 20-21 June 2009

John P. Cooper: “In Search of Suez”

MARES I Seminar

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

John P. Cooper: “Coats for boats: hull protection and decoration in Yemeni wooden boatbuilding traditions”

Ships, Saints and Sealore: Maritime Ethnography of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea

National Maritime Museum of Malta, 16-19 April 2009

D.A. Agius, John P. Cooper, Julian Jansen van Rensburg & Chiara Zazzaro: “Traditional boat-building practices in Yemen: a preliminary survey by the MARES Project”

2008

Red Sea IV: Connected Hinterlands

Centre for Maritime Archaeology, University of Southampton, 25-26 September 2008

 

John P Cooper: “New Perspectives on the Nile-Red Sea Canal”

Research Supervision

 I am interested in supervising students in a range of subjects related to the maritime past of the Islamic world through archaeology, text and ethnography. These include:

  • Boatbuilding technologies and traditions
  • Maritime and fluvial communities
  • Fishing and fisheries
  • Ports and harbours
  • Navigation and wayfinding
  • Maritime and fluvial cultural landscapes

 I am also interested in supervising students on:

  • all aspects of the archaeology and material culture of the Islamic world,
  • Arabic language and linguistics related to material culture.
  • Islamic-era perceptions of pre-Islamic antiquity.

Research Students

Current Students:

Giorgia Ferrari - TBA (co-supervision with Dr Manuela Giolfo, University of Genoa)

Alessandro Ghidoni - The Ship Timbers from the Islamic Site of Al-Balid: A Case Study of Sewn-Plank Technology in the Indian Ocean.

Manami Goto - The Face Mask and Identity in the Persian Gulf: the Case of the United Arab Emirates and Qeshm Island of Iran.

Gizem Kahraman Aksoy - Contemporary Vernacular Architecture in Qatar and the Gulf.

Ziad Morsy - Ethnographic Approaches to Egyptian Traditional Sailing Boats: A Study of Contemporary Maritime Cultural Material (co-supervision with Dr Julian Whitewright, University of Southampton)

Dima al-Qutob - Language Register and Innovation in Arabic Consumer Advertising: Case Studies of Jordan's al-Ra'i and Egypt's al-Ahram Newspapers.

Hasti Safavi - A hermeneutic approach to the Shrine Ensemble and Khanqah of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili.

Zeeshan Shaikh - A Voyage Beyond the Blue Horizon: Envisioning Ancient Navigation in the Erythraean Sea.

Nicholas Tait - TBA

Silvia Truini - TBA

Past Students:

Julian Jansen van Rensburg - The Maritime Traditions of the Fishermen of Socotra, Yemen.

Lucy Semaan - The Use of Wood in Boatbuilding in the Red Sea from Classical Antiquity until Present Times.