The Strategic Location of the Maldives in Indian Ocean Maritime Trade and Colonization

Author(s): Richard Callaghan

Year: 2017


The Maldives Islands, situated off the south west coast of India, form a chain trending from north 6.930° to south 0.700° latitude, an extent of approximately 850 km. The chain divides the Indian into east and west as well as marking the divide between the seasonal monsoon weather patterns. Present evidence suggests that the island chain was occupied as early as the 5th or 4th century BC with close ties to India. The islands became strongly culturally and commercially connected to both Asia and Africa after Islam was brought to the archipelago in the 12th century. Beginning in the 16th century they became increasingly important to European colonial powers. Their location is strategic for maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. Here computer simulations using wind and current data and sailing vessel performance characteristics are used to evaluate the possible routes traders and colonists may have used that relied on the Maldives particularly in the earlier periods of occupation. The chain provides a convenient way station while waiting for favorable shifts in the monsoon winds. The Maldives may have been particularly important in the colonization of the Comoros Is. and Madagascar and the east African Indian Ocean trade.

Cite this Record

The Strategic Location of the Maldives in Indian Ocean Maritime Trade and Colonization. Richard Callaghan. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430648)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13275