The day begins with a meeting with the local councillors. The purpose is to explain our aims and we have a lenghty set of discussions on historical mosques, cowries and the medieval maritime trade.
Another important aspect of the discussion is to clarify that we are here working on behalf of the Maldives Department of Heritage, and won’t be absconding with gold or ibn Battuta’s bones. The project is underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding and by the University of East Anglia’s ethics code.
The Council are very supportive, keen for us to find something, and will issue a statement to the island’s residents.
Then back to survey. The western part of the island is largely occupied by kitchen gardens (watermelons, chillies…) and by forest. Where people have dug to cultivate, sherds litter the surface. What we are looking for in searching for a place to excavate is an area which has not been disturbed in living memory but also – for practical reasons – is not too densely vegetated.
For the next three days, then, we will be searching for this magical combination. We do this by asking the locals about the use of the land, and by testing the soil at regular intervals (to this effect we spent a while hacking through spiky trees and grass bearing compass and tape measure).