Sites & cities that bear the name of Pate Town

Pate Town

Today in : Kenya
First trace of activity : ca. 10th century C.E
Last trace of activity : today
Recorded names : Patte

Description : The Pate Sultanate was a sultanate from at least the beginning of the 13th century until 1895. From 1858 on it was the domain known as Wituland. Archeological evidence suggests Pate was a prominent location in local trade networks by the 10th century. Pate Town is situated on the South-West coast of the island. According to the Pate Chronicle, the town of Pate was founded by refugees from Oman in the 8th century and re-founded by members of the Nabahani family, also from Oman, in 1203. The Pate Chronicle also claims that in the 14th century Pate was so powerful that it had conquered most of the towns on the Swahili Coast. However, recent archaeological findings (by Neville Chittick and later, Mark Horton) suggest that the early references in the Chronicle to Pate are wrong and that the town is in fact younger. The 18th century was known as the "Golden Age of Pate", when the town was at its height of powers and also prospered in fine arts. Builders constructed some of the finest houses on the Swahili Coast, with extensive elaborate plaster works. Goldsmiths made intricate jewellery, fine cloths (including silks) were made by Pate's weavers and carpenters produced fine wooden furniture. The use and production of the musical instrument known as Siwa were most famous. Two examples of Siwas still remain in the museum in Lamu. Both men and women wrote poetry in the Kiamu dialect of Swahili. The Utendi wa Tambuka, one of the earliest known documents in Swahili, was written in the royal Yunga palace in Pate Town. The downfall of Pate town came as a consequence of continuous quarrelling/warring with its neighbours from the end of the 18th century. In 1811, two British naval officers, Smee and Hardy, visited Pate, and witnessed the infighting. In 1813 the famous "Battle of Shela" took place at Shela. This was an attempt by Pate, allied with the Mazrui clan from Mombasa/Oman, to subject Lamu. The attempt failed totally, and many were killed. Only a handful of people managed to return to Pate, and their losses were felt for years. Thomas Boteler, who visited Pate in 1823, described the seeing the remains of a Portuguese fort, but that the place looked otherwise poor. The poet Mwana Kupona (d. 1860) also lived at Pate Town. By 1892 the number of inhabitants had fallen to only 300, down from 7000. Today, the town has recovered some. Agriculture is today the main economic activity.

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