Posts Tagged ‘raa


day 7, leaving

The end of our time in Utheemu. Early morning start, under the rain, from Utheemu, to airport, to fly to Baa atoll and thence to Raa atoll where lies our next target island, Kinolhas.



On the island of Maamigili on the western side of Raa atoll is a resort which, as well as the usual Maldivian offerings of white beaches, greenery and beach villas, highlights the archaeological materials that were discovered when the resort was developed. It operates a museum under licence from the Maldivian Department of Heritage and it also showcases fine art and ethnographic materials. This includes a traditional house, salvaged from the island of Kandholhudhoo which was devastated in the 2004 tsunami.

We had been asked to go over to record, clean, and advise on the remains. These include two bathing tanks (vevu) made of sandstone blocs (veliga), coralstone grave markers, and at least three quadrilinear coralstone structures resembling tombs. All this lies in the central area of the island where no resort development has taken place, but routine works elsewhere on the island (plumbing, etc.) regularly uncover pottery and other past remains.

We were shown around by the collections manager, Niyaz, and given a tour of the displays situated in the entrance lobby

Ethnographic pots – bought from Sri Lanka – at the right, archaeological pot at the left


This also gave us an opportunity to study some of the 120kg of cowries that had been recovered at the site.

A group of visitors, very interested in the Buddhist connections





maritime practices

Interviews: cowrie and other shellfishing, boatbuilding.




Inguraidhoo, Fainu and Kinolhas: the land viewed from the sea

ing, f, kinol

Collecting cowries



One focus of our research in Raa was to gain information on maritime practices. Accordingly, we spent a fair bit of time on the sea, in a sailing boat expertly piloted by our guide Ibrahim. We quizzed him on how he navigates – currents, spotting the reefs, wind direction, recognising the various islands.


Kinolhas, Fainu and Inguraidhoo from the air


Kinolhas, Fainu and Inguraidhoo from the sea

ing, f, kinol

Raa is supposed to be a relatively shallow atoll, with a mean lagoon depth of 26 metres. So I was wondering three things about this relative shallowness. Does it mean that the marine life – cowries in particular – might be more or less abundant? Does it mean that currents might have a specific strength or direction (and as a related question – is it relevant that Fainu, Kinolhas and Inguraidhoo, which have historical connections, lie opposite an opening in the chain of atolls – would these be the obvious place to hit the Maldives as you sailed from Sri Lanka)? And does it mean that there are larger vegetated islands here, thus potentially more archaeological sites?


off to Raa

Reporting, now back in Malé. We have spent the last week in Raa atoll, also known as North Maalhosmadulu. There were two reasons we wanted to go there: first, its historical connections – ibn Battuta specifically mentions visiting one of its islands, Kinolhas – and secondly its tradition of boatbuilding.

We flew to Ifuru – on the way, seeing Kinolhas and its neighbours from a vantage point that ibn Battuta never had!


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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