Kilwa Kisiwani

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Animation of the 3D Model of the Gereza in Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania

Animation of the 3D Model of the Makunati Palace in Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania

Animation of the 3D Model of the Small Mosque on Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania


Kilwa is a former Swahili town on the island of Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania. From the 10th to 16th centuries AD it was a vibrant trading centre. Now it consists of numerous ruined stone buildings, including mosques, palaces, houses and tombs. There is also a small village of isolated farm houses and small agricultural plots. The early history of the town is obscure, partly because its structures, dating from 800 to 1000 AD were built of timber and earth daub with few stone foundations. Modern archaeological research on the coast of Tanzania indicates that the historical origins of the Swahili were Iron Age African societies exploiting the rich resources of the coastal region. They made pottery similar to that of populations in the interior, with whom they had close contact. Their situation on the coast also enabled them to engage in the Arab-dominated circum-Indian Ocean trade, which eventually led to their conversion to Islam. Imported ceramics dated to 800 to 1150 AD show that there was at least indirect contact with Persia, China, India and Egypt.


Gereza Fort
The Gereza Fort is thought to be an Omani structure built on the site of a Portuguese fort. The name is derived from "igreja", Portuguese for church. "Gereza" became the Swahili word for "prison".

Great Mosque
The Great Mosque is an extensive, complex building, with construction dating from the 10th to 18th centuries AD.

Husuni Kubwa
Husuni Kubwa is a palace complex dating from the early 14th centuries AD. It contains a residential area, bathing pool, various courtyards, and a private mosque.

Makutani Building
This is a fortified enclosure, containing the sultan’s palace, dating from the 18th century AD..

Malindi Mosque
This mosque was originally built in the 15th century AD and significantly reconstructed in the 18th century AD.

Further reading:
Horton, M. 1997. Eastern African historical archaeology. In Vogel, J. O. ed. Encyclopedia of precolonial Africa: 549-554. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.
Kusimba, C. M. 1997. Swahili and the coastal city-states. In Vogel, J. O. ed. Encyclopedia of precolonial Africa: 507-513. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.
Pwiti, G. 2005. Southern Africa and the East African Coast. In Stahl, A. B. ed. African archaeology - a critical introduction: 379-391. Oxford: Blackwell.


These texts are based primarily on informations on the Aluka website (