The coast of Kenya has a series of impressive medieval ruins. Amongst the monuments are tombs, grand houses, mosques, and palaces. East African archaeologists date the high point of this heritage to the 13th century. The Kenyan museums contain impressive, reconstructed artefacts that animated the urban life of these lost cities.
In this lecture, Robin Walker will present this heritage and put it in its proper place as a powerful chapter in Africa's history.
A lecture by Robin Walker
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
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- All right, the presentation is called "The Lost Cities and Amazing Heritage of Kenya." And let me, first of all, put Kenya into its historical context. The Kenyan Coast heritage was part of what the scholars call the Swahili Confederation. And the Swahili cities were all the way along the East African coast, all the way from Somalia in the north, down through Kenya, Tanzania, as far south as Mozambique. The main cities were Mogadishu on the coast of Somalia. By the way, that usually surprises Somalis to know that their history is in fact connected to Swahili history. Malindi and Mombasa on the coast of Kenya, Mafia and Kilwa off the coast of Tanzania, Sofala off the coast of Mozambique and Sinna, Mozambique inland. Now I'm using terms like Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique. Of course, during the time periods that we're talking about, none of these places existed under those names. So who were the people? The more northerly people, say Mogadishu, were described in the records as Berbers, and they're also described as a people of the Sudan, which means a people of the Blacks. And then the more southerly people, say Kenya and further south, record Zanj, that's part of the word 'Zanzibar'. Turkish people will know the name Zanji. Our Zanj, they are described as extremely black in complexion with tattoo monks cut into their faces. So you either have a Black population or an extremely Black population. Because of a traveler who visited the coast, Ibn Battuta, we now have another name as well, Sawahil or Swahili. Simply means 'the coast', those people living on the coast. So essentially, we are looking at a bond two civilization. Bond two is a group of language families. Language groups would include things like Swahili, Zulu, Shona, Kikongo. It's one of that group. But the civilization was cosmopolitan, so they would then be joined by people from Arabia, joined by people from Persia, and most importantly joined by people from India. And if you visit the East African coast, that Indian presence is still quite significant. Okay, so what type of civilization are we talking about? That's a British colonial era postcard of the city of Lamu. Lamu is kind of Kenya, but it's off the coast. And if it wasn't for the availability of boat transport, you can't actually get to it, so it's kind of isolated. And a close-up view. You can see multi-story buildings and that kind of thing. So I decided that perhaps I should take a look. So I visited the Lamu Museum and I took photographs. And the museum itself is a Lamu house that has been turned into a museum space and the kind of decorative walls, are we enjoying that? The kind of exquisite designs, absolutely wonderful. And in the museum, what they had were among other things, reconstructed pieces, which was then you could put that into a medieval context. So the idea then was to, a lot of artifacts from that period, they have survived, but they're in bad shape. In other words, if you were to put them in a display, what are we really looking at? Now, an archeologist would know. So they made the decisions in the Kenyan museums to show reconstructions. And so reconstructed pieces of kitchenware from the Lamu Museum. So this is the kind of kitchenware that would go with the medieval heritage. A vermicelli maker, yes, vermicelli, spaghetti. Then you have some other artifacts. So this is the kind of thing that you could imagine in a medieval East African kitchen. Then they have reconstructed coffee vases and rose water containers. And these are taken from the Lamu museums and the Malindi museums. What was really interesting was the reconstructed bedroom goods from the Gedi Interpretation Centre and the Lamu Museum, because these are goods. There's a continuity. In the Kenyan museums that I stayed at, they had furniture that was just like this. So there's a clear continuity from medieval times to now. And for those people that have been to the British Museum, there is a Zanzibari chair and it looks quite similar to what we see up there with its ivory inlay and that kind of thing. So clearly, the impression is given of a sophisticated civilization. And that led to the question, but surely Africans could not have built these cities. And believing this, British archeologist, James Kirkman, deceived a generation of scholars. And so the result then is those of us telling the history have to kick against James Kirkman's material. Not only that, he's also done a lot of great damage to the historical memory of Kenyans because they don't realize that his stuff is nonsense. But the nonsense had a major, major impact. The result was Kirkman misled historians into the error that East African culture was partly, if not entirely, Arab or Persian. And if you speak to people from Kenya, speaking to my guides taking me around the ruins, nearly all of them believe that. And then what I would challenge, but all the archeologies only dug up African skeletons. Yeah, but they were the workman. Well, so that means they built it. Yeah, but they built it under somebody else's control. Where's the somebody else's control skeletons? Do you see? And this is because of James Kirkman. Now the other piece of evidence that people use is the Swahili language today does indeed have a number of Arabic words mixed up in it and quite a lot of Arabic words. And this was at one time argued that this demonstrates an important Arab element in the formation of Swahili culture. And ordinarily, linguistics is a powerful tool and we could use linguistics in this way. However, Dr. John Sutton of the British Institutes of East Africa, this is what he says. "What is less well understood, however, is that the bulk of these borrowings are not ancient in Swahili, but belong to the last 200 years or so, the period of the 'new' Arabs and the Zanzibari state." So the history and the heritage we're talking about is not the last 200 years. We're talking the periods before that, before the Arab borrowings made their way into Swahili. Now in the 18th century, well after the great East African culture had declined, Arab sultans did, in fact, control East Africa. They controlled it from Zanzibar. It became a slave-trading zone, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But the golden age is well before that. So what does the archeology really say? English archeologist, Dr. Mark Horton, was a prominent scholar of Swahili antiquities and his excavations have shown that the very earliest mosques on the East African coast date from the 8th century AD. They were flimsy timber-thatched buildings and were much like temporary mosques built even now from time to time by East Africans. Swahili fishermen built fishing villages including a mosque to serve them only during the fishing seasons. And they're flimsy, they're timber-thatched. The wooden mosques excavated by Dr. Horton indicate that the first Muslims on the coast were Africans, not Arabs. From there, the Africans evolved mud and timber mosques, which were much larger. And finally, they progressed to building stone-built mosques. All right, now the graveyards and mosques were the focal points around which the East African cities grew. And in Gedi, we can see here one of the tombs, photograph taken from the front and from the side. I have a policy that if I take photographs of monuments, you have to have somebody in it so that this way we've got some idea of scale. Does that make sense? Now here we have a tomb and we have a date on it. It's an Islamic date, but when you translate it into a Christian era date, it becomes 1399. And the burials are grand. Since the East African coast has around 50 sets of pillar tombs, scholars deduced that perhaps 50 cities and towns flourished along the East African coast from Somalia to Mozambique. However, more recently, a South African architect, Dr. Peter (indistinct), has released a number, 400 settlements along the East African coast. Here we have a tomb and they called it the Tomb of the Fluted Pillar. And again, this is at a site called Gedi. All right, so if we've got these burials and they've become the the graveyards, the centerpiece of where these cities are going to be, what did the cities themselves look like? Well, did I mention Mogadishu? Did I mention Mogadishu? All right, it's an example of one of those East African cities. And as you can see from the photograph, the old part of Mogadishu, you've got three and four-story houses. And Chinese documents from the the 15th century mention that Mogadishu actually had four or five-story houses. The houses were made of coral stone. All right, so let's get some visitor's impressions. What did the visitors say? There was a traveler from Morocco, his name was Ibn Battuta, and he wrote a book in 1353 called "The Gift of the Observers". But when it was translated into English, people called it "Travels in Asia and Africa". And he mentions visiting what we would today call the Somalian city of Mogadishu. And the main thing he says about them is they're fat. All right, this is what he says. Yeah, I know, not politically correct. "The qadi took my hand." Qadi, that means the judge. So he's just got off the boat, the judge has taken his hand. "And we came to the house, which is near the shaikh's house. And it was bedded out and set up with what is necessary. Then he came with food from the shaikh's house. With him was one of his wazirs." Wazirs means ministers. "Who was in charge of guests. He said, Maulana gives you al-saluma 'alaikum and he says to you, you are most welcome. Then he put down the food and we ate. Their food is rice cooked with ghee placed on a large wooden dish. They put on top dishes of kushan. This is the relish of chicken and meat and fish and vegetables. They cook banana before it is ripe in fresh milk and they put it on a disk and they put sour milk in a dish with pickled lemon on it and bunches of pickled chilies, vinegared and salted, and green ginger and mangoes. These are like apples and they have a stone. And when they ripen they are very sweet and eaten like fruit. But before they ripen, they are bitter like lemons and they pickle them in vinegar. When they eat a ball of rice, they eat after it something from these salted and vinegared foods. Now, one of the people in Mogadishu habitually eats as much as a group of us would. They are extremely large and fat of body." Okay, now what's really interesting from my perspective is I'm of Jamaican heritage and descended from enslaved people who would've come from West Africa. The significance is, is I recognize almost all of the food he's describing. Eating banana before it's ripe, we call that green banana. The green ginger, the mangoes, the sour milk. Sour milk, of course, is yogurt. In other words, I recognize this and this is really, really interesting, really interesting. All right, now on his journey, 1331, he then landed in the city of Kilwa. On a modern map, Kilwa is on the Tanzanian coast and this is what he says. "We spent a night on the island of Mombasa and then set sail for Kilwa, the principle city on the coast, the greater part of whose inhabitants are Zanj, of very black complexion. Kilwa is one of the most beautiful or well-constructed cities in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built," says Ibn Battuta. Now because my focus is on Kenyan heritage, you can look it up in your own time, there are some buildings in Kilwa that are still there. There's the Husuni Kubwa with its indoor swimming pool. There's the Husuni (speaking in foreign language), there's the Kilwa Kisiwani Great Mosque. There's things that you can go look at. Now, what did another visitor say about the Kenya region? You had the Portuguese sailing around South Africa and they landed in Mozambique first and then Tanzania and then Kenya and so on. And the information was then handed over to a Portuguese chronicler called Duarte Barbosa. And when he published, he published in 1517, he said, Mombasa was apparently "a very fair place with lofty stone and mortar houses, well-aligned in streets after the fashion of Kilwa." Lofty multi stories. Malindi had "many fair stone and mortar houses of many stories with great plenty of windows and flat roofs. The place was well laid out in streets." Pate and Lamu were "well walled with stone and mortar." So we get a very positive kind of impression from what the sources have to say. So my visit then was to look up, well what was there? So Gedi is located about 10 miles south of the present Malindi and far from the coast. It being far from the coast is important to this discussion. Yes, it's within walking distance of the coast, but it's a long walk. And the name Gedi is said to be a corruption of 'Gede', a Galla word meaning 'precious'. The Galla are people coming from elsewhere in Africa, possibly the Ethiopia region. One theory is that Gedi may even be the name of the last Galla ruler of the site. So what does Dr. Davidson say? English historian, Dr. Basil Davidson, wrote "The Lost Cities of Africa" in 1959. Excuse me, "Old Africa Rediscovered" in 1959. American title was "Lost Cities of Africa". And he identifies Gedi as the Malindi of the medieval maps and documents. If he's correct, the city must have been very much larger than the 45 acres enclosed by the wall traced by James Kirkman or the 70 acres claimed by the Gedi Interpretation Centre. It must have extended down to the coast and, therefore, it must have been so much bigger than the scholars give 45 or 70 acres. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the buildings must have been of a flimsier and perishable material such as clay bricks. They clearly haven't survived. James Kirkman, 1975, held the view that Gedi was to be identified not as Malindi, but as another city, Kilimani. That Kilimani's mentioned in the medieval documents. I believe, however, that his identification raises the same issues as Davidson. If Kirkman is correct, perhaps Gedi extended self to Mida Creek and would thus be accessible to the Indian Ocean trade. And if it did extend there, again, it would be a lot, lot bigger than the 45 acres that he said it was. Now this is what the National Museums of Kenya website says about Gedi, "It traces its origin in the 12th century but was rebuilt with new town walls in the 15th and 16th centuries. This rebuilding is connected with the emigration of many citizens of Kilwa to Mombasa, Malindi, and other places along the coast." In other words, people from elsewhere in the Swahili Confederation moving into the region. If this is true, this may indicate that the present traces of walls found by James Kirkman are much more recent than the foundation of the coral stone buildings. There was also a large baobab tree. Our guide pointed out that it is evidence of the traditional pre-Islamic belief system. In fact, on all the three sites that I visited, Gedi, Jumba La Mtwana, and Mnarani, there were baobab trees. All three local guides confirmed the view that the baobab tree reflects a traditional belief system, i.e., non-Islamic belief system. One went further and said that prayers would be offered and what you would do would be post valuable items into the tree and offer a prayer. And the significance of that is, if I've been told correctly, it means that the Swahili cities were not just Black Muslims, they would've been Black traditionalists, as well. Another important tree was the Neem tree. Our guide said that it had anti-sickle cell properties. And there is an African American scholar who writes on African science history, Dr. Charles Finch of Morehouse, and he says the same thing, the neem tree does indeed have anti-sickle cell properties. All right, so what's in Gedi? Well, imports to Gedi, archeologists have dug them up. They've dug up Chinese celadon, they've dug up porcelain, and some porcelain pieces that are a lot more complete. So we're getting blue and white ware from China. And obviously, the Chinese didn't stand on their coast and do this. So clearly, we have a trade link and we're going to examine that trade link as we get into this session. All right, now at the site of Gedi, which I said could be Malindi, could be Kilimani, there's the palace. And I took these photographs. Again, basic rule, always have somebody in the picture. They're not there, you don't know what you're looking at. So my guide, her name was Rachel. So there it is. The palace itself, that part of it here is the public part and where the tourist is on the other side is the part that was open to the general public. I'm going to show you a plan. So we took a walk around it and this is the burial part. And can you see that the burial is a grand burial? And the significance of this is in Arab culture, you don't do grand burials. Do you see? So this is clearly not an Arab thing and they look like houses and they have that central piece rising into the sky. Here we have another part of the palace. And then here we have the well where we've got access to water. Now is there a plan of the complex? James Kirkman published a plan and you can see 54 rooms plus 11 courtyards plus seven burial areas plus six double-cubicle toilets. All right, so a lot of people are thinking toilets? Okay, so this is a travel guide to Kenya. I know what you are thinking, Robin, I can't see it, so I'm ready for you. All right, the buildings were constructed of coral rag, coral lime and earth, and some have pictures incised into the plaster finish of their walls, though many of these of deteriorated in recent years. The toilet facilities in the houses are particularly impressive. Generally, in a double-cubicle style with a squat toilet in one and a washstand in the other where a bowl would've been used. Fancier versions even have double wash basins with a bidet between them," says rough guide.All right, Gedi:
The Great Mosque. The Great Mosque is a very impressive building, very largely intact as you can see. And there's my guide on the corner. One of the doorways, and you can see the mihrab as you can see from that. And here we've got image of my guide standing right next to the mihrab. So we've got The Great Mosque. It's believed that its roof was wooden and inside you've got square columns that would've held them up. Then we've got the Mosque of The three Isles, that misspelling wasn't me. If you go to the site, that's how they spell it. And you can see here the the water well of the mihrab. Now you can see that a lot of the building has completely disappeared, but the fact that we have two columns and then you'd have three aisles on either side, that's presumably how it got the name, the Mosque of the Three Isles. All right, the time period of what we are looking at here is somewhere around the 13th century. This is the kind of time period. All right, so this is one of the houses in Gedi. And the reason I'm showing you this is the narrow walkways. And those narrow walkways would've been for donkey traffic. And then along those narrow walkways, there would've been the drains. Then we have another building called the House of the Cistern. And no one seems to know whether or not that functioned as some kind of pool, possibly even swimming pool. But if that's true, presumably, that part would've been a lot deeper than it actually is. But many people have theorized that. Then you've got the House of the Dhow. Now in some of the history books, this building has been mis-presented. It's been presented as The Great Mosque. No, it's the House of the Dhow. And it was quite an interesting building to walk around. And again, I made sure that my guide was in the picture so that we've got some idea of what you're looking at. So how did the House of the Dhow get the name? It's because of that piece of graffito. Can you see that? And can you see that that graffito is indeed a dhow? So the question now is, well, what role did dhows play in East African history? Now let's examine what's in Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa. They have this, and that is graffito they believe was done by Portuguese people. And you can see African dhows and some more dhows, and you can see Portuguese ships, as well. And it shows that those ships mingled on the Indian Ocean. Also, the museums in Kenya have reconstructed dhows, and there's one of those reconstructed dhows. And you'll find it's not just dhows, there's multiple types of East African ships that they've got reconstructed. You can see two or three behind the main one here. So that raised the question, African ships on the Indian Ocean? Yes. These ships could carry 70 tons burden. And these East African ships were on the Indian Ocean. And we know that they go back at least 2,000 years because they're mentioned in a 2,000-year-old book. There was a guidebook that some Greeks had written called the "Periplus of the Erythraein Sea" and it mentions that East Africa had sown boats and it's the same ones. And what it also means is that many scholars have theorized that East Africa is actually the place of origin of what is today called the dhow. So the Indian Ocean trade, the seasonal monsoon winds shaped the trading patterns between East Africa and Asia. In April, the southwest monsoon starts and it will blow from southwest to northeast. By June or July, it created a strong northerly current that flows up the Somali coast towards India. And once people have got to Oman or India or wherever in the Far East, they would stay there for six months and they would wait for the northeast monsoon, which started in November and it reached its full strength in January and it blew from India and the Persian Gulf towards East Africa. And so if you were an East African Mariner, you would be spending six months of your year in the East. Does that make sense? And if you were a mariner from Oman, India, those kind of places, you'd be spending six months in East Africa. And consequently, ideas and cultural artifacts spread between the two. And an example of this is scholars don't know whether the typical East African front door is East African or Indian. In India, there's something called Gujarat style. And the Gujarat style looks just like East African and we truly don't know who got it from whom and it's because of this six-month stop over. So what were the trading products? The Zanj had a trade in ivory with India and China with the traffic passing through Oman. The ivory was used to make the handles of daggers in India and royal chairs in China. It was also used to make chess pieces. They were skilled workers in metal. Now what was this metal? It was in 1978 that the scholars found out what that metal was. They also exported ambergris, which is a perfume and rhino horn. Let that one sink in, mic drop. And rhino horn supposedly had medicinal properties and you can just see the inverted commas on this medicinal. People are looking at me blank, aphrodisiac. (audience laughing) All right, which is the origin of the word 'horny'. All right, they traded leopard skins and also timber. Mangrove poles, in particular, were sold to the building industries of Oman and Persia. All right, Jumba La Mtwana. This is 10 miles north of Mombasa and that's the name the modern East Africans give it, but no one knows the true name of the city. The contemporary Swahili name, Jumba La Mtwana, some people translate it as "The Large House of the Slave". Others say it means "The Large House of the Strong Man", others say it's "The Large House of the Leader". I have no idea whether any of that's true, but hell, that's what I was told. The National Museums of Kenya website says the followingabout Jumba La Mtwana:
"There are no written historical records of the town, but ceramic evidence showed that the town had been built in the 14th century. but abandoned early in the 15th century." So the obvious question then is what's there? The Central Mosque of Jumba La Mtwana. Now again, I've got my guide in the picture. All of what you are looking at there is one building. This is it taken from a different angle and from another angle. Right now, can you see that the back, this wall here, has been reinforced. Can you see that? And that could signify a very, very heavy roof. Now, so what? If you look at The Great Mosque of Kilwa which is in Tanzania, it has barrel vaults. So it looks like it's got barrels lying on its side made of concrete. It also has concrete domes. And because this has that kind of reinforcement, it's possible that that may have had that kind of roof as well. Then we've got the Mosque by the Sea and it really is by the sea. Can you see the Indian Ocean through that door? Yeah? Now what about that for a romantic image? Yeah. Right, there's an unknown building. The scholars are not sure what it was or what it was used for, but it was grand and impressive. Again, these are all made of coral stone. Then you've got the most impressive building in the structure. Scholars have given it the imaginative name of the House of the Many Doors and the House of the Many Doors. My guide was quite sick of me at this point because I tried to get him to walk around all the building and then make sure that he was photographed at every single spot. Now what's really amazing to me, though, visiting these places is to my knowledge, none of these images are in any of the books, certainly not Jumba La Mtwana. Now, what could have been the tableware in this house? Again, Fort Jesus Museum has examples of brass, copper, and silver kitchenware, which again, they believe is medieval context. And they believe that these type of kitchenware would've been the kind of thing that you would've seen in the House of the Many Doors. We enjoying this? All right, Mnarani. This is a ruined town and the name of Mnarani simply means the minaret. And it's located near the modern city of Kilifi, near the waterway, Kilifi Creek. No one knows the original name of this town. And the only reason why it's called a Mnarani is the claimed similarity between the pillar of the pillar tomb of The Great Mosque and it's alleged similarity to a minaret. Does that make sense? Now we know it's not a minaret; there's no stairs where you can climb up it and there's no evidence that there was ever any stairs. And that's true for all of the pillar tomb structures. However, it must be pointed out that the pillar looks slightly more like a minaret or perhaps less unlike a minaret than the pillars elsewhere. But they're still not minarets. The Gedi Museum houses one artifact from Mnarani and it's a 16th century artifact described as toilet instruments. And those toilet instruments could well be a fragment from a pair of tweezers. All right, the National Museums of Kenya website, this is what they say about Mnarani. "The site was first occupied in the early 14th century, but the first mosque, The Great Mosque, was not built until AD 1425. Enlargements were undertaken soon thereafter, followed by major reconstruction efforts later in the 15th century following the collapse of the earlier building. Close to the first mosque is a smaller mosque, which prior to its construction a much similar but smaller mosque existed at its location. The foundation of its mihrab may still be seen east of the present mihrab. The original mosque was built around 1475, while the later mosque in about 1500. This is evident by the presence of a Portuguese dish in the cistern, thus indicating that the final alterations to the mosques were probably not completed until the 16th century. Mnarani was eventually destroyed by the Galla." These are people coming in from Ethiopia. "In the early 17th century and archeological evidence seems to confirm this." All right, so let's take a look. All right, The Great Mosque. Now my taxi driver is the person posing in this particular case. And again, if he wasn't there, you don't know what you're looking at. And walking around the site, you can see that there's actually two halled areas. One theory is that this halled area here to the side is a madrasa, roughly speaking college. You can see here the mihrab area, the water well, the mihrab. And then when we blow this up, I don't know if you can see that there's a band with Celtic knot designs. Obviously, we're assuming the Celts didn't have an impact here, but you, and I don't rule anything in, I don't rule anything out. Okay, so what's the pillar from which this place gets its name? There's the pillar. But this is my guide who took me around this place. Can you see that there's no way that you can actually climb up that? There's no staircase, so it's clearly not a minaret. And the mosques generally, you see, for all those people that say this isn't African, it's Arab, I ask the obvious question, where's the courtyards? There aren't any. The central dome? There aren't any. And then the four minarets around the outside? There aren't any. This is a completely different architectural style. Then you have Mnarani, the Small Mosque and I'm going to show you around that. That bit there is the water tank. The water tank from a different angle. Wasn't that an excellent photograph? Are you feeling that? Isn't that publishable? And then the Small Mosque where my guide is standing, he says, that's the Madrassa. And then you have a very interesting monument called the tomb. And that square area, if we blow it up, isn't that exquisite? Isn't that exquisite? Yeah. All right, I mentioned Duarte Barbosa. Did he describe the people? He said, "The Moors of Sofala." Moors simply means Black folks. The Black folks of Sofala clothe themselves from the waist down with cotton and silk cloths and other cloths they wear over their shoulders like capes and turbans on their heads. Some wear small caps died in grain in checkers and other wooden cloths in many tints, also camlets and other silks." So that's Sofala, Mozambique. By the time we get the report coming out of Kilwa, the levels of luxury reached was astonishing. They are finely clad in many rich garments of gold and silk and cotton, and the women as well, also with much gold and silver chains and bracelets, which they wear on their legs and arms and many jeweled earrings in their ears." And then the people from the island cities of Pemba, Mafia, and Zanzibar dressed in the same style as described for Kilwa with the same associated opulence. Now Pemba, on a modern map is the coast of Kenya. All right, now remember the description of the Moors of Sofala, Mozambique because that's important. You see, when I visited Fort Jesus Museum, they had the traditional dress of a Bantu-speaking East African group called the Mijikenda. And those are the Mijikenda and how they're dressed. Now doesn't that sound just like the description? And the significance of that is this: scholars now think the people who became the Swahili were originally the Mijikenda. So Mijikenda speakers got to the coast, a coastal culture developed. A lot of people became Muslims, (indistinct) continued traditional African religions. They developed a new identity of Swahilis. Do you see? And then you've got the Mijikendas that didn't, that stayed inland, but essentially it's Mijikenda culture. Now what else was depicted in the Fort Jesus Museum? Right, can you see that's a blacksmith? And can we put him into a context? Did I mention that a certain trading product was discovered in 1978, what it was? And it was some type of iron. It was actually steel. In 1978, 13 ancient iron and steel furnaces were discovered in Tanzania and these East African smelters made the finest steel produced anywhere in the world between 500 AD and 1850 AD. And it was only after 1850 that their steel technology was surpassed. Did you know East Africans minted their own coins of copper and silver? Did we know this? There's one of them. These coins were issued in the 11th century. They had rhyming couplets on them praising the king and praising God. And where have these coins been discovered? Well, according to the "Daily Mail", that bastion of right-wing conservatism, (audience laughing) "How 900-year-old African coins found in Australia may finally solve the mystery of who arrived Down Under first." And let's read it. "Coins date back to six centuries before Captain Cook." Are we feeling this? And so what this tells us is East African mariners would-- The documents tell us they were sailing to Oman, they were sailing to India, they were sailing to Java, they were sailing to Indonesia, they were sailing to China, they were sailing to Cambodia where they established a colony. And we now have the theory that they could well have sailed to the northern fringes of Australia, as well. A theory put forward by the "Daily Mail". (chimes sounding) Right now, continuing our theme of metals. This is some reconstructed silver jewelry, which again, they believe is in this 13th century context. You feeling this? Right, now can you see that they've got the silver bracelets and arm bands and then they've got the local name in Swahili? And the fact that it has a local name in Swahili means it's not an imported concept. You know if you import someone's concept, you keep their name. So for example, the English word 'bungalow' isn't an English word. So consequently, if you've got an indigenous name for it, it's not an imported concept. We ready for this? Left hand corner, please. Silver handbag. Are we enjoying that? Okay, the Portuguese role in Africa. Early in the 16th century, the Portuguese sent their fleets and armies into this region. Dr. Basil Davidson explained this unfortunate episode. "It was at Mozambique during his first voyage that da Gama exchanged the first shots. Back again on the coast in 1502, this time with a score of ships from home, da Gama threatens to burn Kilwa unless its ruler will acknowledge the supremacy of the king of Portugal and pay him yearly tribute in gold. Ravasio does the same thing at Zanzibar and Brava. Meeting resistance, Almeida storms Kilwa and Mombasa, burning and destroying. Saldanha ravages Berbera. Soares destroys Zeila. D'Achuna attacks Brava." So by the time we get to the 16th century, a lot of the East African cities are now up in smoke. So some things to remember about Kenya. Again, I was in the Lamu Museum, which remember is a house that's been converted. Now this particular photograph was difficult to take because if I had to step back to get a bigger picture, I'd be outside the door. Right now, can you see the left hand side, which is the corner of a bath? And this side here, what looks like a mihrab is actually a toilet. And just to show you how they would have the bath and the toilet together, this is a plan of the House of the Cowries. Kirkman says 14th century. He's probably wrong, this is probably 11th century. But can you see that you've got the bath and the toilet right next to each other? And this is typical Swahili layout. And finally, something to remember East Africa by. That appears to be a water fountain. And that's it from me, The Lost Cities and Amazing Heritage of Kenya. Thank you very much. (audience clapping) - What caused the downfall of these great palaces or what could have caused the downfall of these great palaces? - According to Basil Davidson, not only did the Portuguese set these places on fire, they also seized control of the Indian Ocean trade. And when you don't have the money for upkeep, because you're assuming that wealth will be coming in. And once that's interrupted, you have what's there. And if things fall apart, you can't rebuild and that kind of thing. And then gradually, more and more poverty starts to ensue. You can't keep up stuff. If it starts falling down, you can't rebuild it, that kind of thing. - I've got another question from the online audience. Oh, it just disappeared. Was there any trading across the Sahara region with the area of Timbuktu and what might they have traded? - To my knowledge, no. Now it doesn't mean it didn't happen, it just means that I can't prove it yet. The main civilization in Africa that the Swahilis were trading with is (indistinct). On a modern map, that's Zimbabwe in South Africa. Yeah, major trade. Major trade in gold, major trade in ivory. Major, major, major. And Chinese celadon and blue and white ware ended up in Great Zimbabwe and the other are regional capitals. As far as places like Timbuktu, don't know, can't prove it yet. Nor do we know if there's a Timbuktu document that speaks about the East African coast. - [Audience Member] Thank you for that. I'm actually Kenyan myself, so I understand there's been a lot of genetic studies being done on the DNA of people along the East African coast. Could you comment on that? - I haven't seen those studies. So I mean perhaps you could share? What have you heard? - [Audience Member] They found islands like Pate, which is opposite Lamu, where you have people with large amounts of Chinese DNA within their composition. - That's really interesting. That's really interest. No, thanks for that comment. - [Audience Member 2] It's (indistinct) a very proud heritage, Kenya. Can you tell me how the laws were administered in those times and is it reflected at all in their constitution? - I wouldn't be in a position to know whether it is reflected in their constitution or not, but back in the day, it would've been Sharia. So Sharia would've been the basis of it. I don't know which brand of Sharia, because depending on which learned Imam you're getting the thing from, there'd be a different brand of how Islam is practiced. But certainly the Quran became the law book. - I'm afraid that is all time we have. Thank you again, Robin. And thank you again for your questions and attention, everybody. (audience clapping)