Maritime adaptations and Indian Ocean trade in East Africa: The role of small offshore islands


Decades of pioneering archaeological research have firmly established East Africa’s offshore islands as important localities for understanding the region’s pre-Swahili maritime adaptations and early Indian Ocean trade connections. While the importance of the sea and small offshore islands to the development of urbanized and mercantile Swahili societies long been recognized, the formative stages of island colonisation – and in particular the processes by which migrating Iron Age groups essentially became ‘maritime’ – are still relatively poorly understood. Here we present an overview of recent fieldwork by Oxford’s Sealinks Project in the Mafia and Zanzibar archipelagos, which aims to understand these early adaptations and situate them in a longer-term trajectory of island settlement and proto-Swahili cultural developments. We focus on the results of detailed zooarchaeological, archaeobotanical and material culture studies relating to early subsistence and trade on these islands to explore the changing significance of marine resources to the local economy. We discuss the implications of these maritime adaptations for the development of local and long-distance Indian Ocean trade networks and the coastal migration of early farming communities into southern Africa.

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Cite this Record

Maritime adaptations and Indian Ocean trade in East Africa: The role of small offshore islands. Patrick Faulkner, Alison Crowther, Mary Prendergast, Mark Horton, Nicole Boivin. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395067)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;