Mozambique Island: Maritime Africa 6

April 2023

We continue our mini-series on the maritime history of Africa with an exploration of the extraordinarily colourful history of Mozambique Island – a UNESCO World Heritage site complete with fortified city and historical links that take us back to the era of the Portuguese exploration of Africa in the fifteenth century. Vasco da Gama was the first European to arrive here in 1498 and returned in 1502 with Portuguese settlers, and it went on to become central in Portuguese plans to control trade in the Indian Ocean. The island of Mozambique was particularly valuable as the first safe harbour after ships had endured sailing around the Cape of Good Hope but still had many thousand of miles to go on their voyage to the east. Unsurprisingly the island has a significant history and heritage that links the African, Arabic and European worlds, and also is surrounded by very important shipwrecks. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Ricardo Duarte, an archaeologist based in Mozambique Island, where he develops research in shipwreck studies and Underwater Archaeological sites, supporting UNESCO efforts to protect this endangered heritage. Ricardo has also studied coastal sites linked to early urban development in Eastern Africa, and the history and social organisation of coastal societies and their relation with the sea.

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