Posts Tagged ‘maldives


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, 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!




male’, 12 June

A day of catching up in the capital of Maldives. Lunch with Dr Shazla, Dean at Maldives National University, Mauroof Jameel, and Shiura. We talked about surveys of traditional house forms, cowries on banknotes, nitrogen pollution, mangas, yams and coral mining among other things.


In the Twittersphere, Shiura seems to be welcomed back with open arms. There’s definitely a lot to be done here in the Maldives. Here’s a chance to say a virtual hello to colleagues in Oxford and London whose research is underway on the archipelago. And plenty (again, on Twitter) by local stakeholders on a number of recent archaeological discoveries made during the development of new resorts. Some of these we hope to visit in coming weeks.

There’s a new section in the National Museum which highlights recent traditional crafts – primarily basketry and woodworking, but there is also a section on pottery storage jars by which we were quite enthralled. All pots had to be imported to this clay-less archipelago so I am assuming they were brought both for their own sake and as containers for something else…? Something to figure out through the material from Kinolhas.



male’, 11 june 2019

Happy to be in Maldives once again! This is my fourth visit to Male’ and the place certainly does not stand still. You can now drive from the airport to the city, for a start, thanks to a new bridge. The PM of India was here last week. And it’s a busy time for culture too, with renewed calls to preserve Maldivian heritage both tangible and intangible.

Before leaving Norwich I made the obligatory stop to buy fieldwork supplies, and this time I travel not with potsherds but with several kilos of cowries (which caused me to be stopped by Customs). These are part of the hoard recovered by locals in Utheemu as they built a football field which we later studied (the cowries of course, not the football field). I’m also travelling with some of the pottery, metal and clay finds from Kinolhas. These are all returning to the Maldives after being on temporary loan to us in the UK.




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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