The Fortified Settlement of Pujini and Implications for a Swahili Urban Landscape

Author(s): Adria LaViolette

Year: 2015


During its lifespan from the mid-fifteenth to early sixteenth century AD, the fortified settlement of Pujini shared Pemba Island, Tanzania with numerous, undefended, more typical Swahili settlements ranging from earth-and-thatch hamlets to stone-built urban centers. The site expresses a unique combination of qualities on the Eastern African coast: complex ramparts around nearly two hectares of space, in which stood some dozen domestic and special-purpose features. Archaeological evidence from the site shows that its builders invoked multiple architectural tropes used widely in Swahili stonehouses and stonetowns, markers of Swahili urbanism and cosmopolitanism. This paper provides an analysis of the archaeology of this settlement through identifying a series of nested socially constructed contexts, from the most intimate spaces in building interiors outward to the Swahili coast itself. I argue that the combination of qualities that makes the fortified site appear singular can also be used to illuminate meaningful networks of social, economic, and political interactions and tensions: locally, in the urban landscape of Pemba Island, and in the tumultuous Swahili world of the fifteenth-sixteenth centuries that includes early incursions of Portuguese sailors, merchants, and soldiers into the region.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

The Fortified Settlement of Pujini and Implications for a Swahili Urban Landscape. Adria LaViolette. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396198)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

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