Maldives Heritage


    A castle built on sand: setting up a heritage resource for the Maldives to foster a sustainable tourist offer (ref. RR0219-14; 2018-2019).



    The Maldives has a rich cultural, historical and archaeological heritage and once lay at the heart of medieval trading systems. This archaeological heritage has the potential to be developed for tourism to help provide a sustainable and more inclusive model in line with broader shifts throughout the industry.

    However, the cultural and natural heritage of the Maldives are endangered by the pace of development and climate change. This is exacerbated by the increasing volume of visitors and the multiplication of sophisticated resort islands.


    Objectives and activities: 

    This study involves survey, archaeological work and interviews on the Maldivian island of Kinolhas with the aim of contributing to local capacity building and training in heritage skills.


    Kinolhas island, Maldives. Excavation director Dr Jaufar and trainee archaeologists from the local community discuss the sandstone well they have uncovered during their work. Such past remains offer useful insights into past drinking water management strategies. The area under investigation has been scheduled by the island Council as a protected heritage area to support the local development of small guesthouses.



    This project is supporting sustainable growth of the guesthouse business, which is beneficial to the cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) of the Maldives. Furthermore, it is providing an additional alternative for an economic boost within the country as well as for the communities of the island. Kinolhas as a pilot project has supported the promotion of cultural tourism but several other sites, including some on which resorts are situated, exist in the vicinity and can use the same approach. The team has consulted with several of these.

    Artefacts issued from the archaeological dig have provided materials for a future exhibition at the National Museum of the Maldives. Since the opening of the museum in 2010, there have been no changes in the collection and none of the exhibitions to date have focused on archaeological materials.


    Did you know?

    The first Maldivian archaeologist earned her doctorate at UEA.


    SDG/target addressed:

    loife below water

    SDG 14.7: By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism



    Anne Haour, Professor in the Arts and Archaeology of Africa at the Sainsbury Research Unit,

    anne haour