Global connections and connected communities in the African past: Stories from cowrie shells

Anne Haour, Abigail Moffett

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Through the stories of four people who carried or traded cowrie shells, this article examines the connections between various parts of the world from a thousand years ago to the present. These connections spanned great distances, linking communities in West Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of the Maldives, and they bring to light the vast land and sea links that connected different regions of the African continent to the wider world in this period. We use cowrie shells to explore how objects participate in creating social relations, shaping senses of self and identity. When viewed in relation to the theme of connections, this offers a springboard for thinking about how things and their biographies fit within our lives today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)545-553
Number of pages9
JournalAfrican Archaeological Review
Issue number3
Early online date6 Sep 2023
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2023


  • Africa
  • Burials
  • Cowrie shells
  • Globalization
  • Indian Ocean
  • Object biographies
  • Trade

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