Archaeological Investigation at Kilwa Kivinje: A 19th Century Coastal Caravan Terminusin Southern Tanzania

Thomas John Biginagwa


The settlement history of Kilwa Kivinje, a port on the nineteenth-century caravan trade in South-eastern Tanzania, is partially known. Despite the town’s proximity to the well-documented, long inhabited and previously more powerful city of Kilwa Kisiwani, little is known about its history, especially for the period predating the nineteenth century. This is mainly because the history of this coastal town has traditionally been dominated by oral literary accounts, to the neglect of archaeological data. The study presented here engaged archaeological techniques to access and reveal the deeply buried history of the town and nearby settlements, which could otherwise not have been accessed through conventional written sources. The main objective was to establish the cultural sequence and assess its spatiotemporal changes until the 19th century period of the Indian Ocean interregional trade connection. Excavations revealed the presence of archaeological deposits that pre-and- postdate the 19th century; thus, allowing the establishment of the origin, nature and development of Kilwa Kivinje town settlement and its vicinity. Major findings show the presence of earliest settlements at the periphery of Kilwa Kivinje, namely; Kisangi Ugoga and Kiwavi, dating back to the ‘Swahili’ centuries period, while Kilwa Kivinje town settlement itself appeared later during the ‘Post Swahili’ period.

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