Researchers find pottery in hunt for trade links with China

Researchers seeking to establish ancient trade links between East Africa and the Far East have unearthed pottery from the sea, which will be studied further to establish its origins.

A team of archaeologists and marine scientists from China and Kenya excavated a site off the Malindi coast at a cost of Sh306 million but did not find any conclusive evidence.

“What we collected from the trenches can’t be traced to have originated from China at this time until more forensic investigations are done,” said Mr Ceasar Bita, head of archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.

Mr Bita and Chinese archaeologist Ao Jie, from the department of Underwater Archaeology of China’s National Museum led the excavation at a Chinese ship wreck site in Ngombeni, some 150km north of Mombasa.

Mr Bita said the scientists salvaged Chinese bowls, mortar from India and green Islamic plates dating back to the 13th century. Mr Bita said wood material from the wrecks was collected for more investigations to establish whether the ships were from China or Persian Gulf.

“From the preliminary findings of the samples collected, there are no indications of direct connection between the African continent and China,” he said.

Early this year, a team of 13 scientists conducted a survey on archaeological sites in Mombasa and Ngomeni.

Mr Bita said the team hoped to get more evidence that would enrich Kenya’s marine and cultural heritage.

Artefacts including porcelain and a Chinese shilling were discovered in the earlier excavations.

Mr Bita said the discoveries could lead to the opening of underwater museums broadening the sources of tourism revenue. 

“These underwater sites that exist will complement the historical land sites and add to our country heritage assets,” he said.