The Archaeology of The Westward Austronesian Expansion by Dr Alison Crowther FSA

The settlement of Madagascar by Austronesian-speaking people from island Southeast Asia has long captured scholarly and public imagination, but on the ground evidence has eluded archaeologists for decades. As a result, much about the arrival of Southeast Asian settlers in eastern Africa remains a mystery, including the timing, process, the degree of intentionality it involved. In this seminar, I will present the results of our team’s recent archaeological research in eastern Africa, which has aimed at exploring these ancient connections. Alongside renewed excavations at several key early settlement sites in Madagascar and the Comoros, we have employed a range of archaeological science techniques including ancient DNA, stable isotopes, collagen fingerprinting, multi-proxy archaeobotany, and geochemical sourcing of trade goods to tease out otherwise hidden details about the cultural and biological links that connected the eastern and western Indian Ocean over a thousand years ago.