kinolhas, 26 june

A few last walks on Kinolhas before boarding the speedboat.

Quick look back at the archaeology we investigated in 2017.

Left image: the tall light green tree on the left is a bodhi tree, identified by locals as marking a former Buddhist site. (The Bodhi tree (Sanskrit: बोधि), was a large and ancient sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) at Bodh Gaya under which Buddha obtained enlightenment). On this image, it is guarded by a thicket of screwpines (kashikeo) which are quite impassable when they gang up on you (but you can make cakes and juice from its fruits), and a sea almond tree (Terminalia catappa) (the nuts make great cakes).

Right image: the sandstone structures we cleaned and measured are now covered by leaves and soil again – the safest way for them to be – sitting quite nicely.



These are some cowries collected on the shore. These larger species typically live a bit deeper than annulus and moneta, so are less available to the casual collector. These guys on the left are, I think, tiger cowries.

An invitation to tea, and excited children as the coast guards pay a visit.

And finally, the obligatory sunset shot. I am now off to Male’, and Shiura remains on Kinolhas to continue her work on the pottery of ibn Battuta’s island.



goodbye kinolhas

As my stay at Kinolhas draws to an end, Shiura and I are treated to a coconut drink, very refreshing in this heat. They set us up some shade in Shiura’s trench!

There is a gift giving ceremony on the beach


And we then go off to number and pack up close to one thousand potsherds, which are coming back to the UK on a temporary export permit, to be studied.




where next?



After a week’s work, the 10x10m trench is down to about 30cm.

Sterile ground – that is, the end of the archaeological materials – has been reached in some parts of the trench. West Africanists, I know, right! Many of us are more used to reaching sterile at 3m rather than 0.3m!


With hermit crab tracks.

The question therefore now is where to excavate next? Shiura and I have been noticing potential locations.

In summer 1974 John Carswell observed that the streets of Malé were surfaced with finely packed coral sand studded with pottery sherds; “each monsoon shower revealed a new crop”. Same here… Main street in Kinolhas:





kinolhas, 24 june

The analysis of the pottery has begun.


At the same time, we continue to learn about the island – its layout, resources, and outlook.

On the south shore, low tide exposes the sandstone which could be mined in the past to build things.

Kinolhas has many neighbours, and the islands are intervisible. On the left is Fainu, its neighbour to the north. On the right, can you spot at least three islands? Blog followers based in Kinolhas, you no doubt can name them.

Raa atoll – where we are – is in the midst of a major development of tourism (foreshadowed here). Many of the previously uninhabited islands are being developed as resorts and many of the inhabited islands are launching into the guesthouse business.

Back to sandstone: one of the things you can build with it is a well. Which is fine, but that means unfortunate archaeologists then have to map it!


kinolhas, 22 june

It has rained for a while most days, but luckily this has not slowed down Shiura’s team too much.


Once the topsoil was cleared, it was time to set up the sieving station – some discussion about the most effective way to install its frame.


Once the topsoil clear, with the start of the archaeological layer, the pots began to turn up!




kinolhas, 17 june

Material culture and heritage everywhere…


Foot gravestone made of white marble. The matching headstone is in Male’ and the inscriptions on it suggest that the deceased was one Abu Bakran, from Junnar, east of Mumbai in India. “Le marbre blanc et le décor, où l’élément essentiel est une niche habitée d’une lampe suspendue, renvoient sans hésitation à la production de pierres sculptées de la région de Cambay en Inde, c’est là que la stèle a sans aucun doute été façonnée. Sa surface inscrite semble avoir été décorée en une seule fois, sans doute en Inde même, et le nom du défunt aurait, lui aussi, été inscrit dans l’atelier indien”, write Kalus and Guillot.


Another gravestone, albeit less grandiose. Used to catch drips from the water butt.


The inevitable modern Plastic Horizon. Single use plastics seem still in very common use here.


Shiura at work on what seems to be a well made of veliga (sandstone) blocs. There are a number of such features dotted around the island, and this is an opportunity to learn more about them. We don’t expect this to be very deep – water will likely show up at about -80cm!


kinolhas, 16 june

We left the capital of Maldives, Male’, on Thursday morning on a dawn speedboat – the early departure was meant to avoid the rougher seas, and it seems to have paid off.


This year’s work is led by Shiura, and it has two main purposes. The first is to discuss with local communities how keen they would be – given all the other competing priorities and risks in their daily lives – to develop cultural tourism on the island, which would build on their fame as the place ibn Battuta visited in the 1340s. The second is to excavate again on the site we studied in 2016 and 2017, to obtain a good-sized sample of potsherds which Shiura can then analyse as prime evidence for the past connections maintained by the Maldives.

The meeting with the island council leaders goes well – they are as supportive as last time, and have identified a team of people who’d like to work with us.


A first visit to the site allows us to scope and identify the best location to place the trench – which as any archaeologist knows is always quite a nerve-racking guessing game.


We last visited Kinolhas in 2017. And everyone says hi, Annalisa and David!



About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

Please log in often, comment and/or subscribe to keep up to date with what's happening.

Blog Stats

  • 36,117 hits

Recent posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. There will be a special prize for the 50th subscriber

Join 161 other followers


January 2020
« Jun