By Caesar Bita
The MUA Collection (2011)
Abstract: Historical records have shown that the East African coast was connected to ancient global trade networks. These early overseas contacts are evidenced by references to trading voyages in the early 1st millennium AD and in the 11th to 14th century AD. During these periods, exports to India, China and the Persian Gulf included skins, horns, ivory and gold, whilst pottery, glass, textiles and beads were imported. Maritime archaeological studies have produced pottery, beads and shipwrecks that have showed links between East Africa and the Middle East, Indian sub-continent and China. Furthermore, historic Kenyan coastal settlements such as Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu were important port towns of call for merchant shipping, as they were strategically sited along busy sea-lanes. This paper examines this historical connection between ancient Kenyan coastal towns and the Asian continent. It explores results of previous and ongoing underwater archaeological research in Malindi and Lamu archipelago that has produced evidence of Asian cultural heritage.