16
Jan
17

Day 1, Malé

This afternoon: talking to the author of a report on the etymology of the name Mulah.

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Mulah (Dhivehi: މުލައް) is an island in Meemu atoll, which we visited briefly last year,  when we were based for a time on a neighbouring island.

Mulah’s full name is Boli Mulah, and Boli is the cowrie shell, so of course we were intrigued. Of the nine places with names that relate to cowries, only Mulah is an inhabited island and therefore relatively easy to visit. And ibn Battuta allegedly went there, too. Thus, last week Annalisa and Shehe returned to Mulah for a few more interviews with cowrie collectors and coir producers.

They learnt much while they were there, and were also pointed to an informant now in Malé who wrote a study of the origin of the name Mulah. He told us that the island became famous as the place for cowries because it had the right habitat for them.

Also today we went to the National Museum and carried out an inventory of our gear, after which Annalisa, David (our lucky student volunteer of the season) and I went to eat hummus and shawarma in what is billed as Malé’s first Arabic restaurant.

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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!

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