Earthenware ceramics. Dembeni period, 9th–10th centuries AD. M’Bachile, Ngazidja, Comoro Islands. African Archaeology, Museum Expedition. UMMAA 61422.

Following the 1978 revolution in Iran, research on state formation there became impossible for Museum curator Henry Wright, and he shifted his fieldwork focus to the Indian Ocean: Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. These ceramics come from the site of M’Bachile (Mbashile) on the island of Ngazidja (or Grande Comore, the largest of the four Comoro Islands). Located on the western coast of the island, remains at M’Bachile extend over four hectares. They date to the Dembeni period, 9th–10th centuries AD, which is associated with the earliest settlers of the Comoros. Locally made ceramics include plain black or brown ware vessels with impressed designs and finer slipped and polished red wares, sometimes with graphite decorations. Both groupings are evident in the sample shown here, which is from a small excavation. Imported ceramics that originated in the Near East were also recovered at Dembeni period sites. These well-dated materials were valuable for refining the chronology and providing insights into the region’s connections with the economic and social networks of the Indian Ocean in the late first millennium AD.

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In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.