Category Archives: AFRICA

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple

Archaeologists in Egypt have uncovered a nearly 1,000-year-old cache of gold and silver coins behind a temple in Esna, a city located along the Nile River.

Hoard of Islamic era gold and silver coins found behind Egyptian temple
Archaeologists uncovered both gold and silver coins at the temple site in Esna, Egypt.

The hoard, which was discovered by a team of researchers from Egypt’s Supreme Council for Archaeology, includes coins minted throughout different parts of the Islamic era, which began in A.D. 610, when Muhammad received his first revelation, and lasted until approximately the 13th century(opens in new tab). 

Notable coins found during the excavation, which began last year, include 286 silver coins of kings and kingdoms from that era, as well as a variety of gold coins, a coin from Armenia that was minted during King Leo II’s reign in the 13th century, and bronze and brass coins from the Ottoman Empire.

Also found among the “hidden treasure” were dirhams (silver coins used across several Arab states, including today’s United Arab Emirates) minted by a variety of kings and sultans.

In addition, researchers unearthed molds and weights that were used during the minting process, according to a translated statement.

Archaeologists(opens in new tab) aren’t sure why the hoard of coins was abandoned at the temple site and hope further analyses of the cache will provide clues to the coins’ history, according to the statement.

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

To the south of the causeway of King Unas in Saqqara necropolis, the archaeological mission of the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University, headed by Ola El-Aguizy, stumbled upon the sarcophagus of Ptahemwia from the reign of King Ramses II, whose tomb was discovered last year in Saqqara.

New Kingdom Sarcophagus Discovered at Saqqara

Mostafa Waziry, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Ptahemwia holds several titles, including the royal scribe, the great overseer of the cattle in the temple of Ramses II, the head of the treasury, and the one responsible for the offerings of all gods of Lower and Upper Egypt.

Waziri said the entrance to the shaft of the tomb at the centre of the peristyle court measured 2.2 X 2.1 m. The subterranean burial chamber opened on the west side of the shaft at the depth of 7 m.

It led to a square room measuring 4.2 X 4.5 m, leading to two other rooms on the western and the southern sides. 

These two rooms were completely empty. In the main room, he added, a cut in the floor on the north side was noticed, leading to stairs that led to the burial chamber proper which measured 4.6 X 3.7 m. 

El-Aguizy explained that the sarcophagus was uncovered on the west side of the burial chamber. It was directed south-north with an anthropoid lid showing the facial features of the deceased with crossed arms on the chest holding the Djed symbol of the deity Osiris and the Tyet symbol of the goddess Isis. 

The sarcophagus is decorated with the usual inscriptions found on New Kingdom sarcophagi, with the bearded head of the owner, the sky-goddess Nut seated on the chest extending her wings.

Engraved on the lid and body of the sarcophagus is the name of Ptahemwia and his titles, representations of the four sons of Horus, and the prayers accompanying them all around the body of the sarcophagus.

“The lid of the sarcophagus was broken diagonally, and the missing part was found in the corner of the chamber. It has been restored to its original position. The sarcophagus was empty except for some residue of tar from the mummification on the bottom of the sarcophagus,” El-Aguizy pointed out.

Beads show that European trade in the African interior used Indigenous routes

Beads show that European trade in the African interior used Indigenous routes

Tiny glass beads discovered in mountain caves about 25 miles from the shores of Lake Malawi in eastern-central Africa provide evidence that European trade in the continent’s hinterland was built on Indigenous trade routes from the coast to the interior that had existed for centuries, according to a study co-authored by Yale anthropologist Jessica Thompson.

Beads show that European trade in the African interior used Indigenous routes
Two of 29 glass beads were discovered at archaeological sites in Malawi. An analysis showed that all but one were made in Europe. Many of the beads, like the tiny one on the right, were less than 2 millimetres in diameter.

The beads also are artefacts from a period in the 19th century when heightened European political and economic interest in the region influenced trade between Indian Ocean merchants and communities in the African interior, Thompson said.

The study, published in the journal African Archaeological Review, is based on a collection of 29 glass beads excavated at three sites in the Kasitu Valley in northern Malawi, more than 400 miles from the eastern coast, from 2016 to 2019.

An analysis of the beads’ elemental composition showed that all but one of them were manufactured in Europe using glass recipes that were in fashion around the mid-19th century. The exception had a composition typical of glass beads produced in South Asia from the 15th to the 17th century.

The beads’ provenance indicates that people in the region were either directly or indirectly trading with Europeans before the latter group had established a presence in what is now Malawi during the second half of the 19th century.

This commerce was most likely associated with heightened trade in commodities such as gum copal — a resin used in the varnish industry — and ivory that was prized in Europe and North America.

It also likely involved the capture and transport of enslaved people, who were taken in chains to spice plantations in Zanzibar and other Indian Ocean islands, Thompson said.

“It’s a dark story,” said Thompson, assistant professor of anthropology in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the paper’s senior author. “Indian Ocean traders had access to European goods, like these little beads, that they could exchange for things in high demand in distant places — a story of exploitation deep into Africa that continues today. And in the mid-1800s, there was still a slave trade across eastern Africa that would persist for several more decades.”

Thompson is a paleoanthropologist whose research typically concerns much older human groups. But as she was working with colleagues at sites in Malawi searching for Stone Age artefacts, glass beads began showing up in their 1-millimetre sieves. (All but one of the beads have a diameter of less than 5 millimetres. The smallest were less than 2 millimetres in diameter.)

“Some were so tiny that we didn’t know that we were looking at beads when we first found them,” she said. “They just look like little brightly coloured specks.”

Thompson and her other co-authors teamed with Laure Dussubieux, a senior research scientist at the Field Museum in Chicago, who analyzed the beads’ composition using a technique called laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Essentially, the beads were zapped with a high-energy laser to determine their elemental makeup without damaging them, Thompson said.

It was the first time this technique was applied to glass beads excavated in Malawi, where thousands of glass beads have been discovered at dozens of sites since 1966.

The researchers used the beads’ chemical compositions to identify their origins. For example, five red-on-white beads in the study contained high concentrations of arsenic, which was used in European recipes during the 19th century to make glass opaque. These beads likely were produced in Venice, which was the centre of 19th-century Europe’s bead-making industry, according to the study. They were manufactured around the time the Scottish missionary David Livingstone was creating maps of the African interior and encouraging people in Britain to take a greater interest in eastern-central Africa. (The British eventually established governance in Malawi, which became an independent country in 1964).

A single bead yielded from one of the sites was the only example in the collection with a non-European origin. Its composition is consistent with beads produced in Chaul, a former town on the Maharashtra coast of India, from the 15th to the 17th century, meaning it likely arrived in the eastern African interior hundreds of years before the European beads, the researchers concluded.

Two cowrie shells, which were abundant in the Indian Ocean and used as currency and jewellery, were discovered at a fourth site that bore no glass beads. Radiocarbon dating determined that the shells were between 1341 and 1150 years old, which suggests that the glass beads of European and Indian origin arrived at inland communities via long-established trade networks, Thompson said.

“This tells you that people were already trading through very complex routes from the Indian Ocean, over mountains and around lakes to inland communities at least 1,000 years before Europeans began documenting their experiences in the region,” she said. “Newcomers to Africa were exploiting trade routes created through long-term Indigenous interactions.”

“It’s not simply a story of Europeans arriving and distributing their goods to people in the African interior,” she added. “The people living there had been trading for centuries for Indian Ocean goods, via established and productive pathways. Our work shows how archaeology and artefacts can reveal important information that would stay hidden if you only relied on written accounts.”

Menno Welling of Amsterdam University of the Arts and Potiphar Kaliba of Malawi’s Department of Museums and Monuments are co-authors of the study.

Belgium Repatriates Ancient Artifacts to Egypt

Belgium Repatriates Ancient Artifacts to Egypt

Egypt recovered on Sunday two ancient Egyptian statues that were smuggled to Belgium, as the country continues intensive efforts to retrieve thousands of artefacts found in the unlawful possession of museums and individuals around the world.

Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations Omar Selim (L) and General Supervisor of the Repatriation Antiquities Department Shaaban Abdel-Gawad during the hand-over of two ancient statues retrieved from Belgium.

The two pieces are a wooden, painted figurine statue of a standing man resting on a pedestal and a wooden ushabti figurine.

The first piece dates back to the Old Kingdom (2686-2181 BC), the other to the Late Period (664-332 BC), a statement by the ministry read.

In 2016, the two pieces were seized by the Belgian authorities at an exhibition for selling antiquities after investigations concluded the exhibition owner did not possess their ownership documents, the statement added.

The two pieces were handed over by Assistant Foreign Minister for Cultural Relations Omar Selim to the Repatriation Antiquities Department (RAD) at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in the presence of General Supervisor of the RAD Shaaban Abdel-Gawad and a representative of the Ministry of Interior.

Egypt is set to repatriate 16 artefacts that were stolen and smuggled out of the country after they were recovered by the authorities in the United States as part of their investigations into a major case of international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities.

In June, New York prosecutors announced seizing five Egyptian artefacts worth more than $3 million from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of an investigation into international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities involving Jean-Luc Martinez, the former president of the Louvre, who was charged in May with complicity in fraud.

In recent years, Egypt toughened penalties for unlawful possession or smuggling of artefacts. 

Last year, parliament amended the law on protecting antiquities to stipulate that those illegally possessing or selling antiquities face imprisonment and a fine of EGP 1 million to EGP 10 million.

Egypt has succeeded in recovering 5,000 artefacts from the US, 115 from France, and 36 from Spain in recent years.

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt

Archaeologists in Egypt made an unexpected discovery on Saturday, opening a set of ancient pots to discover a block of halloumi inside, preserved for 2,600 years.

Yep, we’re serious—it was halloumi.

The ancient Egyptians ate a cheese they called haram (no, it wasn’t haram), which eventually evolved into the word halloum—aka halloumi.

The world’s squeakiest cheese, which tastes at its rawest like new sneakers on a hospital floor in the best possible way, was found as part of the Egyptian archaeological mission working in Giza in the Saqqara antiquities area. Yep, the same place as Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb was set.

No word yet on whether it is edible, but perhaps they’re taking volunteers?

While some scientists point to Cyprus as the originate of the cheese during the Byzantine period, others dispute this, and claim it was previously known as haram in ancient Egypt.

The archaeologists found a number of clay pots that contained the cheese, which was inscribed in Demotic script, a type of writing that was discovered on the Rosetta Stone.

Archaeologists uncover 2,600-year-old blocks of white cheese in Egypt
The archaeologists on saturday discovering the halloumi.

They found a large number of containers, the rest of which are planned to be open in the coming days. No speculation on whether they all contain halloumi or whether there are other cheeses—or non-cheese substances of some kind—within the pots.

The Saqqara area has been a hugely fruitful area for relics in recent years, with more than 100 sarcophagi discovered, which was turned into the 2020 Netflix documentary.

Archaeologists have more planned excavations for the area too. The Egyptian Antiquities Mission has been working on the site since 2018, and through the past five excavations seasons, it had highlights including the discovery of the unique tomb of the priest of the Fifth Dynasty “Wahi”, in addition to 7 rock tombs, including three tombs from the New Kingdom and four tombs from the Old Kingdom, and the facade of a tomb from the ancient state, in addition to the discovery of more than a thousand amulet of faience, dozens of wooden cat statues, cat mummies, wooden statues and animal mummies.

None, of course, is as delicious as halloumi.

Archaeologists in Egypt still a huge hit for Netflix

Netflix’s feature-length documentary Secret of the Saqqara Tomb, released in October 2020, was viewed by 22 million households around the world in its first four weeks, according to the streamer. 

That amount puts the documentary in the top five documentary films in Netflix history, says the film’s director, James Tovell. 

Netflix doesn’t often release numbers, so the figures and rankings are an interesting insight into how popular documentaries are on the platform. Extraction, the Chris Hemsworth action film released last year, was viewed by 99 million homes in its first four weeks, for comparison. 

“All of these experiences and the amazing discoveries that were made have of course become all the more rewarding now that so many Netflix members have come along with us on this journey.

We’re extremely grateful to all those who have watched the film, and thrilled that so many people have found something to enjoy, from those learning about ancient Egypt for the first time to those familiar with this world who were able to learn or experience something new,” says Tovell.

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

Egypt is set to repatriate 16 artefacts that were stolen and smuggled out of the country after they were recovered by the authorities in the United States as part of their investigations into a major case of international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities.

Egypt to repatriate 16 artefacts recovered by authorities in the United States

The repatriation of these stolen artefacts was made possible through a collaborative effort between the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the one hand, and the Office of the Attorney General in New York, on the other hand, after the completion of all necessary investigations.

Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, the supervisor general of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, broke down the identity of the artefacts to be repatriated.

First, six artefacts were seized by the Manhattan District Attorney after they were recovered from the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York City during the ongoing major investigation into the smuggling of Egyptian antiquities to the United States and France.

The six include a part of a painted coffin depicting the facial feature of a lady; limestone relief engraved with hieroglyphic text and an offering scene; five linen Fragments of a wall illustrating the biblical Book of Exodus that date back to between 250 and 450 BC; a bronze statue of a famed musician named Kemes; and a portrait depicting a Roman-era lady in Fayoum.

Second, nine of the artefacts were seized after they were found in the unlawful possession of an American businessman.

The nine include distinguished ancient Egyptian objects and a Ptolemaic-era coin.

All recovered artefacts will be handed over to the Egyptian Consulate in New York within days in order to make their way back home.

In June, New York prosecutors announced seizing five Egyptian artefacts worth more than $3 million from the Met as part of an investigation into international trafficking in Egyptian antiquities involving Jean-Luc Martinez, the former president of the Louvre museum, who was charged in May with complicity in fraud.

This 230-Million-Year-Old African Dinosaur is the Oldest Dinosaur Species Ever

This 230-Million-Year-Old African Dinosaur is the Oldest Dinosaur Species Ever

The newly discovered dinosaur Mbiresaurus raathi, is pictured here with other Triassic animals whose remains were also recovered from northern Zimbabwe.

The oldest definitive dinosaur species ever discovered in Africa — and one of the oldest dino species to walk Earth — has been unearthed in Zimbabwe, a new study finds. The finding sheds new light on dinosaur evolution, and on one of the most fundamental questions of Triassic palaeontology: Why did dinosaurs live in only some parts of the ancient supercontinent Pangaea?

Scientists began working on the Pebbly Arkose Formation in northern Zimbabwe in 2017. After five years of careful excavation and COVID delays, they’ve finally unveiled the dig’s star specimen: Mbiresaurus raathi, a nearly complete skeleton named after “Mbire,” the Shona dynasty that once ruled the region.

The species’ name honours Michael Raath, who helped discover the first fossils in the area. At roughly 230 million years old, the specimen is on par with the oldest dinosaurs ever found. Their results were published online Wednesday (Aug. 31) in the journal Nature(opens in new tab).

“The earliest dinosaurs were small — far from the giants we usually think of,” Christian Kammerer, a research curator of palaeontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences who was not involved in the research, told Live Science in an email.

The newly named dinosaur is a sauropodomorph, a relative of the towering (and iconic) long-necked sauropods like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus. At around 6 feet (2 meters) long, or about as long as a Shetland pony, and 1.5 feet (0.5 m) tall at the hip, M. raathi wasn’t tiny, but it would have been dwarfed by later sauropods, such as the massive 122-foot-long (37 m) Patagotitan.

M. raathi lived during the late Triassic period (252 million to 201 million years ago) along the banks of an ancient river in what would become Zimbabwe. It was a rich ecosystem, filled with more than just dinosaurs. “I think a lot of the story is about all the different animals that we found together,” study first author Christopher Griffin, a vertebrate paleontologist at Yale University, told Live Science.

The excavation unearthed numerous protomammals known as cynodonts, as well as armored crocodilians, bizarre beaked reptiles called rhynchosaurs, and even evidence of an early meat-eating dinosaur.

This assemblage almost exactly mirrors the fossils palaeontologists might expect to find an ocean away, buried in the steppes of Patagonia or tucked away in the rocky outcroppings of Brazil.

During the Triassic period, all of Earth’s continents were smooshed together into one giant landmass known as Pangaea. Because of this ancient proximity, many regions that are now separated by entire oceans — such as the coasts of South America and Africa — once shared flora and fauna. “If you draw a line across Pangaea connecting northern Argentina and southern Brazil, you cross northern Zimbabwe as well,” Griffin said.

Study first author Christopher Griffin excavates some Mbiresaurus raathi fossils, seen here wrapped in a plaster field jacket, in 2017.

Consequently, M. raathi closely resembles other late Triassic sauropodomorphs, like the deceptively named Eoraptor and the dog-size Saturnalia, both found in Brazil, as well as some found in India.

It remains a bit of a mystery as to why certain animal species were relegated to certain regions of Pangaea during this time. “You might think that it would be easy to traverse a supercontinent,” Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science, “But it seems not.”

Sites such as the Pebbly Arkose Formation, however, offer clues to this millennia-old mystery. Building on earlier research, the researchers proposed that varied climate patterns held Triassic animals in place, rather than physical boundaries like oceans.

The closely-related dinosaurs found in South America, south-central Africa and India indicate that similar animals roamed freely across this particular latitude band, but not outside of it, likely because of climatic barriers like extreme heat or drought, the researchers wrote in the study.

This 230-Million-Year-Old African Dinosaur is the Oldest Dinosaur Species Ever
Paleontolgist Sterling Nesbitt (left) and Christopher Griffin (right) excavate the remains of a herrerasaurid dinosaur in 2019.

Dinosaurs probably didn’t disperse to the other parts of Pangaea until these climatic barriers relaxed. But the stomping grounds of other major animal groups with roots in the Triassic, including mammals, turtles, amphibians and reptiles, are still influenced today by how these climatic bands’ affected the groups’ ancestors, the team suggested.

Meanwhile, there is one other dinosaur fossil discovered in Africa that may be even older than M. raathi — Nyasasaurus, which was found in a roughly 245 million-year-old fossil formation in Tanzania.

However, Nyasasaurus is known only from a handful of bones. Taken together, they do not form a complete enough skeleton to determine whether it was a true dinosaur, or simply a dinosaur ancestor, known as a dinosauromorph. Either way, M. raathi represents a key piece in the mosaic of dinosaur lineage.

“As a rule, the discovery of a new species is very important to science,” said study co-author Darlington Munyikwa, a palaeontologist and deputy executive director of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe. And, he told Live Science, the fact that this species is the oldest confirmed dinosaur in Africa makes it particularly “awesome.” The specimen now resides in the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, where it will inspire generations of palaeontologists to come.

“We’ve known next to nothing about the earliest dinosaurs in Africa, and the discovery of Mbiresaurus changes that,” said Brusatte. “I think it is one of the most important recent dinosaur discoveries anywhere on the planet.”

11th-Century Settlement Uncovered in Zanzibar’s Stone Town

11th-Century Settlement Uncovered in Zanzibar’s Stone Town

A UAE-led heritage project is shedding new light on the origins of Zanzibar’s Stone Town. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of an original settlement at the Unesco World Heritage site in Tanzania that dates back to the 11th century.

It proves the town — previously thought to be an 18th century Omani Arab town — was actually established much earlier by local Swahili people, archaeologists believe. During a major dig this summer, they unearthed traces of homes, cooking pits and significant amounts of pottery from this era.

They were then able to pinpoint the settlement’s transition to stone buildings by the 14th century. These stone houses gave the trading centre on the east African coast its unique appearance and were ultimately how it got its name. Stone Town became the powerful capital of the Omani Arab Empire in the 19th century and many major buildings were constructed at this time.

Zanzibar Minister for Tourism and Heritage, Simai Mohammed Said, visiting the site. (Credit: Zanzibar Ministry for Tourism and Heritage)

But the Emirati-funded work has shown how the trading centre developed much earlier than previously thought.

“Our excavations found walls of houses, stone architecture and established it was urbanised in a much earlier period than historically thought,” said Prof Tim Power of UAE University.

“We can now say that the town was built centuries before the Omanis arrived.”

The project, which started this year, is a collaboration between UAE University, New York University Abu Dhabi, the Royal Agricultural University in the UK and the Department of Antiquities in Zanzibar.

Archaeologists from Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism and students from State University of Zanzibar also volunteered for the project. Stone Town’s Old Fort, built during the Omani era, was the focus of the dig. The fort could be compared with Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Hosn, said Prof Power, as it was the nexus of military and political power and also functioned as a customs house.

A test pit dug in the 1980s unearthed pot sherds suggesting this, but Prof Power said this could be described as a sort of background noise. Another dig led by Prof Power in 2017 also yielded promising results.

The historic Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar. Two trenches were dug in the courtyard of the fort. EPA

This year, two trenches made in the fort’s courtyard were dug to a depth of two metres, uncovering rubbish pits, cooking fires, walls, floors, the remains of a Portuguese church, significant amounts of pottery and even evidence of a mosque — structures that show an intensification of human settlement.

The teams were able to date the pieces by comparing the types of pottery unearthed to those found in other excavations.

“We found a lot of imported pottery, especially from China,” said Nour Al Marzooqi, an archaeologist at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, who worked at the site over the summer.

“It is similar to what we found in the UAE,” said Ms Al Marzooqi. “But we also found local Swahili pottery such as cookware.”

Archaeologists stumbled upon a carved block from a mosque that once existed at the site but has yet to be found. The project also uncovered one of the walls of a Portuguese church that had been demolished and integrated into the fort. Archaeologists found the wall footings and floor of the church, under which dozens of Christian graves were found dating to the 16th and 17th centuries, when an Augustinian mission stood on the site.

“The excavations go back in time in a focused way,” said Prof Robert Parthesius, who leads NYUAD’s Dhakira Centre for Heritage Studies, the entity funding the project.

“And the ceramics found come from so many different periods. It gives an insight into all those centuries and we now we have come to 11th century.”

A antique door in Zanzibar’s Old Town. The town grew wealthy on the back on Indian Ocean trade networks. EPA

Stone Town started as a small fishing village but grew rapidly on the back of trade networks that developed across the Indian Ocean. It came under Portuguese, Omani and European influence but always retained its Swahili identity. It was the capital of the Omani Arab empire in the 19th century and became very wealthy.

“It was like the Venice of East Africa,” said Prof Power. “There was a major trade in ivory, ebony wood and slaves. Omani Arabs also developed clove plantations and it became the leading supplier of cloves in the world.

“This prosperity is reflected in the architecture,” said Prof Power. “There are beautiful merchant houses with carved doors and blocks. They are absolutely gorgeous.”

The project explores the cosmopolitan and multifaceted history of the town and how it plugs into the intricate and vibrant trade networks that existed across the Indian Ocean into the Gulf through the centuries from its foundation.

Gulf to Zanzibar trade

Did Chinese pottery, for example, come direct to Stone Town or through an intermediary?

A lot of trade was conducted on dhows that sailed from the Gulf to Zanzibar and this relationship was important. Stone Town was a market for Arabian goods such as dates and source of labour. Despite the many different ethnicities and differences, a shared culture and way of life also existed.

A Zanzibar sunset with a dhow under sail. Trading dhows plied routes between the UAE and Zanzibar. Photo: Tim Power

“This project is bringing to life the Indian Ocean during the Golden Age of Islam,” said Prof Power,” referring to the period between the 8th and 14th centuries, when there was a flourishing of cultural, economic and scientific advancement.

“It was a place where people did amazing things. This diversity and range of characters has been obscured by European colonialism, which split these regions into different territories, and also the post-colonial movement and ethnic nationalism. But there was shared culture across the Indian Ocean at this time.”

Zanzibar’s Minister for Tourism and Heritage Simai Said visited the site of the dig in the summer and said it was an “exciting new discovery” for the archipelago.

“We are happy to host an Emirati-funded archaeology project,” he said. “It will help us in our mission to communicate the island’s rich heritage and culture to tourists and local people alike.”

The work will continue in January when a further expedition is planned. It is also hoped to create a museum at the site to present some of the finds from the excavations to the public.

“This initiative is so important not only for understanding Indian Ocean trade networks but also useful for people living in Stone Town,” said Prof Parthesius, whose work at the centre seeks to forge collaborations with local heritage organisations.

“Our work seeks to bridge the divides. We want to make sure people don’t feel like we have come to teach them. And by working together, more people can be trained in archaeology and we can learn from each other.”