An archaeological study of the Maldive Islands: investigating the Islamic period settlements

Jaufar, Shiura (2019) An archaeological study of the Maldive Islands: investigating the Islamic period settlements. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis presents an archaeological investigation of the remote Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives during the medieval Islamic period, through the excavation of three selected sites. The importance of the Maldives in medieval Indian Ocean trade networks, due to their geographical position at a crucial transit point and their exportation of cowry shell money (Monetaria moneta), is well known. However, these islands have received limited archaeological research, and that has focused largely on the pre-Islamic period. An archaeological study is important because the existing historical sources are on the whole relatively late and there has been a tendency to extrapolate them uncritically to earlier periods. Moreover, the Maldivian archaeological heritage faces various threats from development and environmental issues. Therefore, with the aim of documenting heritage at risk and filling some of the existing gaps in knowledge, the research is underpinned by four objectives: (1) investigating the landscape history and archaeology of the Islamic period in the Maldives; (2) creating a detailed typology of the pottery excavated; (3) examining the extent of intra-regional differences in the material culture; and, (4) shifting the focus away from the capital Male’ towards the poorly studied rural islands.

The research objectives are addressed through the study of three archaeological sites dating to the Islamic period, discovered in the course of this doctoral research and located in the north, central and far central regions of the Maldives. The core dataset is the pottery recovered, and this thesis presents the first typological study of a scientifically excavated, stratigraphically contextualized and dated pottery assemblage recovered from medieval contexts in the Maldives. Other items of material culture recovered, including faunal remains and non-ceramic material culture, are also discussed. Together, these allow an exploration of the role of the Maldives and of their place in the Indian Ocean trade system during the medieval period. Indeed, both material culture and historical sources provide evidence for connections, over the longue durée, to several regions of the world, such as South Asia, China, Arabia, Persia and Europe. The thesis concludes that the Maldives were a nation with a strong maritime identity and suggests that Maldivian communities played an active and autonomous role in the Indian Ocean trade network.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Users 11011 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2019 15:07
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2019 15:07
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/72672
DOI:

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