Preserving the Maritime Cultural Heritage on Pemba Island, Tanzania – Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

East Pemba Maritime Heritage Project team:

Mark Horton, Royal Agricultural University

Eréndira Quintana Morales, Northern Illinois University

Shadia Taha, University of Cambridge

Abdallah Khamis Ali, Zanzibar Heritage Foundation.

Abdallah Mkumbukwa, State University of Zanzibar

Laura Basell, University of Leicester


Kichokochtwe – a typical site?

Kichokochtwe, located on a tidal islet, covers around 5 ha, with a shoreline on three sides. The occupation located across a series of low hills, visible as pottery scatters and a grey soil. A coral-stone mosque with a mihrab adorned with the Chinese blue-and-white bowl (probably Kang-shi) of the early 18th century is located at the highest point of the islet and a small cemetery of stone tombs is just outside the settlement to the east.

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe

Chinese bowl set into the mosque’s mihrab at Kichokochtwe and showing that even these small fishing villages were still connected into the Indian Ocean trading networks.

The economic data from the test pits we excavated was particularly revealing. There were enormous quantities of shells and bones mixed in with the ceramics, and carbonised seeds (which still have to be analysed). The shell assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus, which is found along the intertidal littoral that surrounds the site, and which is still collected nowadays. 14 other species were also found, including the African land snail, Achitina fulica. The quantities of shellfish suggest that this was a pretty common staple in the diet, and not just an occasional famine food.

Graph Showing Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits

Counts of shell fish recorded at Kichokochtwe from two test pits. 14 of the 21 species of shell recorded from our excavations in East Pemba occur here, but the assemblage is dominated by Strombus gibberulus (right) a small conch shell, collected from the intertidal flats.

The bones were also of interest in reconstructing the economy. This was dominated by cattle bones, with a few sheep goat, and very rare chicken. But the big surprise was the almost complete absence of fish bones – despite every attempt to ensure that we were recovering material from fine mesh sieves, and wet-sieving large samples of deposit. The villagers of Kichokochtwe were not eating much fish, and this was a pattern found at all the other sites as well.

Large quantities of cow bones

Large quantities of cow bones were found with the shell fish, but very few fish bones.

Back to All News