Refining the chronology of Kua Ruins: radiocarbon dates from the Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania

Annalisa C. Christie

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Described by Sir Mortimer Wheeler as the ‘Pompeii of East Africa’, the settlement of Kua in the Mafia Archipelago of Tanzania has considerable archaeological potential. The site was surveyed and excavated in 2009 and 2010 as part of a larger project that aimed to explore the sociocultural context of maritime interactions in the archipelago. Prior to this, there is no record of the site ever having been systematically excavated. Consequently, dates for the occupation of the settlement have previously been determined entirely from historical sources and oral traditions. This paper reports the results of the radiometric dating of samples recovered from Kua during the excavations in 2009 and evaluates them in the light of historical, architectural and archaeological data in order to refine the chronology of the settlement. While the data presented have yet to conclusively date the settlement's foundation and abandonment, the radiocarbon dates suggest that its occupation sequence is likely to have been more complex than is reported in historical sources. Further archaeological research will be necessary to gain a more complete picture of life at the settlement and its role in the sociopolitical organisation of the Archipelago more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-533
Number of pages13
JournalAzania: Archaeological Research in Africa
Issue number4
Early online date28 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Mafia Archipelago
  • Kua Ruins
  • Chronology
  • Radiocarbon Dating
  • Settlement History

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