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Exploring Zanzibar’s trading connections using isotopic characterisation of glass

The site of Unguja Ukuu on Zanzibar is known as an important entrepôt in the first millennium trade networks of the Indian Ocean. Much of the focus in exploring these networks has been on glazed ceramics, which were a large proportion of the ceramic assemblage here and show deep and ongoing connections with the Persian Gulf region. Glass beads have also been recognised as an important object of trade and studied for their technology and provenance.

Urbnet is contributing to this field through the detailed isotopic analysis of glass assemblages from the excavations at Unguja Ukuu. This has already shown some differences between networks represented by glass vessel sherds and glass beads. The results are still in process, but publication should position the Zanzibar archipelago within a different and overlapping geography of interaction and production.

PI: Gry Barfod (Urbnet, Aarhus)