ORIAS Speakers Bureau Features the Archaeology of the Swahili Coast

December 5, 2017

Picture of the Friday Mosque, Kilwa

Wolfgang Alders, a Rocca Fellow and an anthropology doctoral student at UC Berkeley, studies the archaeology of agriculture, pottery production, and settlement on Unguja Island, the southern island of Zanzibar on the East African coast. Through a unique collaboration between the Office (link is ex

Wolfgang Alders

ternal)of Resources for International and Area Studies(link is external) (ORIAS), the Center for African Studies and other UC Berkeley area centers, he has been sharing his knowledge with middle and high school students throughout the Bay Area. Alders is part of the ORIAS Speakers Bureau(link is external), a cohort of graduate students who offer 45-minute classroom presentations for students from middle school to community college. The presentations are free to schools and can be booked online at this link(link is external). More on what Alders' brings to the classroom follows.

The Archaeology of the Swahili Coast: East Africa and the Indian Ocean

In World History classes, the Swahili Coast of East Africa is often a side-note to discussions of Indian Ocean trading networks or the Islamic World. By contrast, this presentation centers the Swahili Coast, connecting the region to other parts of the world. In this introduction to the archaeological and historical record of the Swahili Coast, Alders invites students to consider several important questions: What is the difference between history, anthropology, and archaeology, and how do these disciplines affect our modern conceptions of Africa? Who lived on the Swahili Coast? What sorts of economic and cultural connections did the Swahili Coast have, both within Africa and in the larger Indian Ocean basin? How do archaeologists make meaning of evidence to answer questions about the past? By introducing and explaining the significance of numerous archaeological sites and artifacts, Alders teaches students both about the Swahili Coast and about how archaeologists construct understandings of the past.

More About the Speaker

Wolfgang (link is external)was born and raised in the East Bay and is now a UCB graduate student. In addition to research in Zanzibar, his related interests include the Swahili language and Swahili poetry, the history of archaeology, and satellite remote sensing. He also enjoys stand-up comedy, playing a variety of string instruments, 1980s action movies, and ice cream sandwiches.

Suggested Audiences

Age: 7th grade – 12th grade and community college. Teachers should pre-introduce the basic geography of East Africa and the Indian Ocean basin before students see this talk. Such an introduction might include: (1) maps of modern nation-states in the region, (2) a review of the origin and spread of Islam, (3) maps depicting different Asian and African states and empires during the 1st and 2nd millennia CE, and (4) a brief explanation of the monsoon winds. An introduction to the Swahili Coast cities could be helpful but is not necessary.

World History: This talk primarily addresses the period prior to 1500 CE, with the majority of examples relevant to the period between 500 and 1500 CE.

African History, Asian History, Geography, Global Studies: The topics addressed in this talk touch on a number of regions and disciplines and would be at least partly applicable for many courses.


Cloves in UngujaChwaka Mosque in PembaMkokotni Well

Pictures in order: Cloves in Unguja(link is external); Chwaka Mosque in Pemba(link is external); Mkokotni Well.

Picture featured at top: The Friday Mosque, Kilwa.

All pictures by Wolfgang Alders.