New Paper on the Marine Shell from Harlaa

Just published is a new paper exploring the large assemblage of worked marine shell from Harlaa. Initially, it was thought that species such as the cowries were imported from the Indian Ocean. Subsequent research has found that all were available from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, c. 120 km east of Harlaa. This suggests that a hitherto largely unrecognised source of marine shells was available, and the Red Sea might have supplied not only the Horn of Africa, but other markets, potentially including Egypt, and from there, elsewhere in North Africa and ultimately West Africa via trans-Saharan routes, as well as Nubia and further south on the Nile in the Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The details are, Insoll, T. 2021.Marine Shell Working at Harlaa, Ethiopia, and the Implications for Red Sea Trade. Journal of African Archaeology 19: 1-24. The paper is available open access at this link.

– Tim


Cut and pierced shell and ancillary material from Harlaa. (1) Monetaria annulus opened using the ‘popping the cap’ technique with entry point indicated by arrow (HAR17-B-22). (2) Cypraea dorsa created by ‘popping the cap’ (HAR17-B-4). (3) Deeply cut Cypraea after the dorsal ring has been cut off (HAR17-B-14). (4) Examples of obsidian flakes and blades. A fragment used as a ‘drill’ is second left (HAR18-B-9). (5) Pteriidae sp. with cutmarks indicated by arrows (HAR20-G-11). (6) Part of iron knife (HAR17-B-4). (7) Part of an iron awl (HAR18-E-5). (8) Saw marks on copper strip indicated with arrows (HAR19-E-28). (9) Strombus tricornis with sawn straight edge (HAR16-B-11). (10) Strombus tricornis fragments with more jagged cut edges (HAR19-F-6) (photos by the author). 

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