Has Zanzibar’s coastline been destroyed by international trade and settlements? –ScienceDaily

Humanity’s impact on the environment is often framed in the context of the post-industrial era, but new archaeological research reveals how intensive land use by a medieval East African population East has forever altered its natural habitat.

Unguja Ukuu, an archaeological settlement located on the Zanzibar Archipelago in Tanzania, was a key trading port in the Indian Ocean in the first millennium when the island was populated by agricultural societies establishing trade links to the Indian Ocean, the China and beyond.

New research published in the Journal of Island and Coastal Archeology describes how human activities have altered the coastline at Unguja Ukuu.

Urban growth in the island’s coastal settlements and commercial ports, and associated commercial activities, may have silted up the lagoon, hampering ship traffic and ultimately impacting fish numbers. and played a role in the decline of the community.

For millennia, the Indian Ocean has been the maritime setting for an incipient form of globalization, with vast networks of trade and exchange operating between East Africa, South Arabia and Asia. Southeast, which foreshadowed modern global maritime networks.

“The islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago have witnessed many environmental and cultural changes as the region has become a hub of maritime trade, cross-cultural interaction and global trade,” says the lead author of the study and lecturer in archeology at Flinders University, Dr. Ania Kotarba-Morley.

These changes have resulted in the dumping of leftover food, general waste, and an increase in agricultural activity and land use, all of which have negatively impacted the accumulation of sediment along the island.

“While discussions of human impacts on the planet and its natural environments are still present in our current discourse, they almost always refer to modern impacts and focus on agricultural or urban areas such as major cities.

Our study clearly describes how human interference in a natural environment impacted coastal landforms and sediments on a remote East African island more than 1000 years ago and directly changed the fortunes of coastal inhabitants of the region accordingly. study Associate Professor Mike Morley of Flinders University

Archaeologists applied a variety of standard and state-of-the-art techniques to find new models that improve our understanding of changes in sediment composition along the coastline of local coves and the island’s bay, directly impacted by activity. human.

“To help understand how and why these ancient ports flourished or declined, it is important to know how the coastal landscape influenced how traders undertook their trade, or conducted decisions, including the locations of mooring and investments of labor and capital by local communities and any central authorities.

From an environmental point of view, it is crucial to know whether this commercialization has had a physical effect on the coastline, modifying the morphology of the landscape in an anthropogenic way or causing changes”, explains Dr Kotarba-Morley.

Researchers argue that these processes may be involved in the decline and eventual abandonment of Unguja Ukuu around the turn of the second millennium AD – a period of regional socio-political and economic transformation of African coastal societies that marked the emergence of maritime Swahili culture. .

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