Travel, Religion and Trade:

Exploring the cosmopolitan world of the medieval Indian Ocean through daily life in an East African town
Dr Stephanie Wynne-Jones
Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The medieval Indian Ocean world was deeply interconnected by ties of travel, trade, religion and kinship. The ways that world has been understood have to date been generally focused a macro-economic scale, based on the notion of a pre-modern 'world system'. In this paper Dr Wynne-Jones will shift the scale to explore daily life in Songo Mnara, a rich Swahili town of the 14th - 16th centuries and will argue that this focus at a human scale provides more nuanced understandings of large-scale patterns.


Dr Stephanie Wynne-Jones is an Africanist archaeologist, specialising in East African coastal urbanism, material culture, and social practice. She has conducted fieldwork in several regions of the East African coast, including her PhD research at Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania, survey on Mafia Island (with Dr Paul Lane and Dr Bertram Mapunda), excavations at Vumba Kuu, Kenya (with the National Museums of Kenya) and along caravan routes through Tanzania, with work near Lake Tanganyika. She has recently completed a major campaign of excavation back in the Kilwa archipelago, at Songo Mnara (with Dr Jeffrey Fleisher). Excavations at this 14th – 16th century stonetown are aimed towards providing a richer understanding of the uses of urban space among the Swahili, and the ways that objects were bound up in spatial practices inside and outside the structures. Her most recent book is A Material Culture: Consumption and Materiality on the Coast of Pre-Colonial East Africa (Oxford University Press, 2016).

(Seminars start at 5.00 p.m.)