Maritime and underwater archaeological explorations in Kenya: Recent discoveries

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Maritime and underwater archaeological explorations in Kenya: Recent discoveries


Kenya is the first sub-Sahara African country to initiate an underwater archaeological expedition thus legally recognizing the value of underwater cultural heritage. This was after successful survey and excavation of the 17th Century Portuguese shipwreck, Santa Antonio De Tanna, in Mombasa. Kenya coast is part of the Western Indian Ocean; commonly referred to as the ‘Swahili coast’. This coast was a domain of foreigners from the early centuries of the first millennium AD. It was visited by the Greeks; controlled by the Arabs, Portuguese and the Europeans. In addition, it played a major role in ancient transoceanic maritime trade across the Indian Ocean Seaboard linking the Swahili Coast with the Arab world, India sub-continent, Far East and China, America and Europe. Owing to crude navigation and sea faring technologies of the time, there are on the seabed of Kenya traces of these interactions in the form of archaeological remains. Recent studies have shown that the Kenya coast is home to a number of shipwrecks and has immense potential in underwater cultural heritage. Drawing from ancient literature, previous and current maritime and underwater archaeological studies, and this paper presents the recent discoveries from underwater archaeological surveys in Kenya. The paper illustrates that there is immense potential for underwater archaeology in Kenya that requires new attention both in research and conservation.


Caesar Bita, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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