Excavations at the Old Fort of Stone Town, Zanzibar: new evidence of historic interactions between the Swahili Coast and Arabian Gulf


  • ````Tim Power
  • Mark Horton


Zanzibar, Arabian Gulf, Portuguese, Yaʿrubids, Āl Bū Saʿīd


The Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar, is one of the city’s most prominent monuments. It has played a key role in the history of both the Swahili Coast and the Arabian Gulf. The western courtyard of the fort was excavated in 2017 and 2018 as part of a collaboration between Zayed University and the University of Bristol together with the Zanzibar Department of Antiquities and Museums. Excavations revealed that the site has been continuously occupied since the eleventh century AD, when a Swahili settlement was established next to the beach. A Portuguese factory and an Augustinian mission were established in the sixteenth century. At the end of the late seventeenth century the factory was destroyed by the Yaʿrubids of Oman, who subsequently incorporated the remains of the church into a square-plan fort. The fort was then doubled in size on the order of Sayyid Saʿīd b. Sulṭān Āl Bū Saʿīdī in the nineteenth century, creating the present rectangular-plan building with two courtyards. Ceramic imports throughout the 900-year sequence point to strong commercial links with the Arabian Gulf.


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How to Cite

Power, ````Tim, & Horton, M. (2020). Excavations at the Old Fort of Stone Town, Zanzibar: new evidence of historic interactions between the Swahili Coast and Arabian Gulf. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 50(1), 275–291. Retrieved from https://archaeopresspublishing.com/ojs/index.php/PSAS/article/view/310