East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project

Project Description

The towns of north-east Pemba island (Zanzibar, Tanzania), are a remarkable survival of a maritime cultural heritage, that has its origins in the 8th century CE, and which continues, largely unknown and unstudied, into the 21st century. Located on very dry coralline limestone, the coast is a network of shallow channels, lagoons and mangrove swamps, with a reef fringing the Indian Ocean. In this area developed twelve traditional towns (miji), with significant populations, that came to rely on the maritime environment for their survival, rather than long distance monsoon-based trade. Until recently, these traditional towns (of which seven now survive) had restricted access to fresh water or farmland and relied on the sea for their sustenance. Recent changes in the demographics, and the availability of piped water have resulted in rapid societal changes. The project will examine the maritime cultural heritage through baseline studies of fishing and shell-collection, through maritime related crafts (boat-building, sail-making, rope making, basketry), and the collection of archaeological survey data to demonstrate long term continuities. The project aims to highlight the unique survival of maritime cultural heritage, and to help to provide solutions for its long term sustainable future within a stable society within the context of rapid development.


Location: Tanzania

PI: Mark Horton (Royal Agricultural University)

Co-Is: Laura Basell (Queens University, Belfast), Abdallah Khamis Ali (Government of Zanzibar), Abdallah R. Mkumbukwa (University of Zanzibar)

Size: Large