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Grant number like: RZ-51329-11

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University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL 60612-4305)
Sloan Williams (Project Director: November 2010 to May 2017)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$215,000 (approved)
$215,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2011 – 8/31/2016

Decoding the Swahili

A project combining archaeological excavation, ethnohistory, and genetic analysis to study the origin and development of urban communities along the Swahili coast of East Africa. (36 months)

We propose to develop a more nuanced understanding of the origin and development of sub-Saharan urbanization on the Swahili coast, focusing on the migration histories of the towns' residents and their African neighbors and communities in the Middle East and South Asia. Our research will focus on Manda, a Swahili archaeological site in the Lamu archipelago (800-1400 CE). We will 1) conduct excavations of four cemeteries, 2) interview modern Swahili about their origins 3) collect genetic data from the skeletons of the people who were buried at Manda and 4) carry out a physical and chemical analysis of artifacts, and biological remains to identify relationships both with other regions of East Africa and throughout the Indian Ocean.