Sites & cities that bear the name of Shanga


Today in : Kenya
First trace of activity : ca. 8th century C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 15th century C.E

Description : Shanga is an archaeological site located in Pate Island off the Eastern Coast of Africa. The site covers about 15 hectares (37 acres). Shanga was excavated during an eight-year period in which archaeologists examined Swahili origins. The archaeological evidence in the form of coins, pottery, glass and beads all suggest that a Swahili community inhabited the area during the eighth century. Evidence from the findings also indicates that the site was a Muslim trading community that had networks in Asia. Based on archaeological evidence, it is known that Shanga was first inhabited by the Swahili in the 8th century. According to Captain Chauncey Hugh Stigand and his version of the Pate Chronicles, the history of Shanga began with the arrival of Sulaiman ibn Sulaiman ibn Muzaffar al-Nabhan in 600 AD. It is stated that Sulaiman married the daughter of the king of Pate, thus giving him authority to rule over part of the island. Shanga was an independent town at the time of this event, so it did not fall under Sulaiman’s jurisdiction. It was Sulaiman’s royal descendants, however, that were eventually responsible for conquering Shanga later on. The Swahili community in Shanga continued to thrive there for 600 years until their disappearance in the early 15th century. Oral traditions claim that the site was deserted circa 1400-1425. Shanga remained abandoned and unnoticed until the early 20th century. Horton mentions that it was Captain Chauncey Stigand who noticed Shanga’s ruins on Pate Island. Stigand, however never made an attempt to look more into them. The first archaeological study in Shanga would not take place until the 1950s with the arrival of Dr. James Kirkman. According to Horton, the Washanga (people of Shanga) still remain, although they now live in Siyu, a neighboring Swahili town. It is unclear as to why Shanga was abandoned in the early 15th century. Horton speculates that the community could have deserted the area for political reasons although it was more than likely due to a decline in water supply.

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