On January 24, 2008, Dean King delivered this Banner Lecture. In 1815 the American sailing ship Commerce ran aground on the northwestern shore of Africa. In his prize-winning book, Skeletons on the Zahara, Dean King recounts the misfortunes of the shipwrecked crew. They were captured by nomadic Arab slave traders and marched across the desert, subjected to heat, starvation, and cruelty. At last the survivors made it back to the coast where they were ransomed and freed. King, a Richmond writer, brings this once-famous adventure story, well known to nineteenth-century readers, back to life.