Chinese to dig up ruins in Malindi
A group of nine Chinese archeological experts arrived in the country on Sunday afternoon ahead of the second phase of the excavation exercise in search of an ancient kingdom believed to be buried at the Coast. The nine from the Peking University ‘s School of Archeology and Museology join six of their compatriots, who arrived in the country earlier, and two Kenyan experts for start excavating three sites in Mambrui.
They are looking for the ancient Malindi Kingdom, believed to be where there was first contact between the Swahili and the Chinese in the 14th century. The excavation exercise will start on July 18. If the team makes a breakthrough, the Mambrui town will be placed among the historical heritage sites and attract tourists, putting Kenya and the Coast as a preferred destination for tourists. Team leader Dashu Qin said the group will be at Mambrui for months for the excavation exercise.
Later in November, another group of experts will be in the country to do underwater archeology in search of a shipwreck believed to have been used for trade during the ninth century. The underwater excavation will be screened live by the Chinese state television CCTV. National Museums of Kenya’s Coast region assistant director Athman Hussein and head of Coastal archeology Jambo Haro said the project, dubbed Sino-Kenya project, is funded by the Chinese government to the tune of Sh200 million. “What we want to do work is to look for ancient Malindi Kingdom. You know the kingdom is a famous in China because in ancient literature material, the Chinese began to record it from the ninth century and they keep writing,” said Qin.
He said the current Malindi town was moved away from the ancient kingdom. Kenyan scholars believe the ancient kingdom was actually situated around Mambrui. The area is now a Muslim cemetery. In October 2010, the team discovered an early 15th century Chinese coin, the remains of an iron smelter accompanied by iron slag, and a jade-green shard of porcelain believed to have come from Long Quan, a kiln that made porcelain exclusively for the royal family during the early Ming dynasty.
In 2008, a shipwreck, estimated to be between 400-600 years old, was discovered in Ngomeni by Kenyan underwater archeologist Caesar Bita, who said the East African coast has been very active in terms intercontinental trade. “We have got evidence of the connections between the Swahili Coast and the Persian Gulf and West Coast of India and China. Investigations are still ongoing. The mission between Kenya and China is now trying to prove whether really there is a Chinese shipwreck here at the Coast. We have done some investigations and found evidence in terms of pottery that tells us that really there has been commerce between Kenya and China,” said Bita.
However, the shipwreck that will confirm this commerce in Malindi has not been found. The exercise is part of the cultural exchange programme between the Kenyan and Chinese governments. “The discovery so far made will help us place a remote town like Mambrui in its rightful historical context,” said Haro. He said the discoveries so far made indicate that Mambrui was actually founded around the 14th century unlike previous records which show that the town was founded around the 16th century.